CANTON — A Catholic education option rich in “truth, goodness and beauty” is returning to Canton.
Chartered by the state Department of Education, St. Catherine of Siena Academy is set to open for students in kindergarten through fourth grade this fall. The school will be housed in the former St. Mary’s School on Powers Street, though Siena is operating independently from the adjacent St. Mary’s parish and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg.
Following the 2020 closure of St. Mary’s School — after 90 years — the parish has used the school building as a church center, where, for instance, religious education classes are held. Siena Academy is renting a classroom inside the center, and will likely rent additional rooms as enrollment grows, Devon C. Sutton said.
Ms. Sutton, mom to two soon-to-be students and member of the school’s governing board, described Siena as “an independent liberal arts school in the Catholic tradition.”
A collection of priests, public school educators, area parishioners and parents of future students have worked through the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis to form Siena.
“Especially after this particular year, the sense of hope this is bringing is needed,” Ms. Sutton said. “COVID has torn down so much, and to be able to build something up is wonderful.”
When St. Mary’s School hosted its final graduation ceremony in June, 11 employees, including five full-time teachers, moved on from their positions. For the 52 students enrolled last year — down from 78 the year prior, and more than 140 in the 1990s — school transfers were imminent.
By the time the fall 2020 term started, public, private, home and faith-based schooling was undeniably different. Pandemic stressors across all areas of life further complicated parent responsibilities, Ms. Sutton said.
For Catholic families wanting Catholic education, St. Lawrence County’s options were reduced from three to two after St. Mary’s closed. St. James School in Gouverneur and Trinity Catholic in Massena enroll pre-K learners through sixth-graders.
“I can’t get my kids to Gouverneur or Massena, so if I wanted them to have a Catholic education, my only option was to start a school,” Ms. Sutton said. “Even if Catholic education isn’t for you, we wanted people to have a choice.”
Siena Academy is a member of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education and approaches learning holistically, Ms. Sutton said. A Renaissance history lesson, for example, would involve learning about language, music, art, culture, science and math evolving from the period.
“With such a hunger for this in the local community, it’s been a joy-filled process,” Ms. Sutton said, adding that the community’s support is reflective of “the spirit of the north country.”
Fall enrollment is now open for between 15 and 25 students, with growth expected over the next few years. Fifth grade will be added in 2022, as students progress. Busing to and from the Powers Street location is available.
Tuition information and registration forms are viewable at sienaacademy.org.