WATERLOO — Sacred Heart School held classes for the last time Friday, but plans are already developing for reuse of the building.
The Rev. Ken Stecher, pastor of the adjoining Sacred Heart Catholic Church, said the congregation is in talks to lease portions of the building at 620 W. Fifth St. to a number of organizations. Those agreements are expected to be finalized within the next month.
Possible renters are in “keeping with the mission of our parish, that it would be used for service organizations and education of young people,” he said.
“There’s four floors and we’re just happy that so far four organizations are (planning to use) the various floors of the building,” added Stecher. “We’re really pleased that the whole building will be used for different agencies and different services.”
Cedar Valley Catholic Schools’ Board of Education voted in November to close Sacred Heart this spring as preschool through fifth-grade classes are consolidated at its two other Waterloo elementary schools.
Since last fall, the school has served children in kindergarten through third-grade with older elementary students moved to other schools because of small class sizes. But Sacred Heart, which opened in 1909, was originally a K-12 school.
Betty Kremer, a resident of the Friendship Village retirement community, went all the way through Sacred Heart, graduating in 1953. “I lived at that school,” she said.
Kremer even met her future husband, James, there after he transferred from St. Johns School for ninth-grade. They continued the tradition with their own children.
“Our family of eight children went there through eighth-grade,” she said. After that, they attended Columbus High School, which opened in 1959.
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Kremer, who is still a member of Sacred Heart Church, noted that she is “really unhappy, of course, about the whole situation” with the school closing. “It’s very sad to me. Forgive me if I start crying, because it’s upsetting.”
Waterloo native Kelsey Beckman now lives in Illinois, but on Friday she was thinking about her time at Sacred Heart. She went there from preschool through eighth-grade before moving on to Columbus in 2006.
“It makes me sad to see it close its doors,” she said. “My family has been a part of Sacred Heart as long as I can remember.” Two older brothers also attended the school and her parents remain members of the church.
Beckman treasures “countless memories” of her time at the school. Those range from the “eighth-grade buddy” who would visit her kindergarten class to the annual spirit week ending with the school Olympics and the talent show during her final year where a group of moms performed “Thanks for the Memories.”
During the Advent season, “I always think about the prayer services at Sacred Heart,” she said. “The songs have stuck with me. (It is) kind of the foundation on which I built my faith and practice my faith to this day.”
Beckman added, “Thank you to all the Sacred Heart teachers who have made an impact in my life.”
Stecher acknowledged the difficulty of closing the school.
“It’s sad, especially for the alumni,” he said. “But you can’t look back because we had to consolidate.”
He focuses instead on the purpose of the school and points out that it will continue to be fulfilled.
“We’re happy that there will still be private Catholic education in Waterloo,” said Stecher. “We’re happy that most parents will be sending their children to the other locations.”