Manitowoc County school closing after 134 years

ST. NAZIANZ, Wis (WBAY) - It's the end of an era for a Manitowoc County school -- a school which has educated children dating all the way back to 1884.

This week marks the final week for St. Gregory Catholic School in St. Nazianz.

As staff and students reflect on the proud 134-year history of their school, they say it's hard to say goodbye.

That's why an outdoor fun day held Wednesday was a good way to counter what's been a sad few months for students at St. Gregory.

"When they said the school was closing it was kind of a big shock to my mom and my whole family because we've been here for so long. We just don't want to the school to go," says eighth-grader Isaac Egan.

"Pretty sad about that because it's just, I've been here so long and everyone here is pretty much family," adds classmate Alayna Peterson.

It's a family that's continued to get smaller in recent years, down to just 20 students in pre-K through eighth grade this school year.

In March, the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay decided it was time.

"We've had declining enrollment numbers for some time, and without being able to get the growth we had to make the decision to close the school," says St. Gregory Principal Rita Steffen.

Over 134 years, thousands and thousands of children in the St. Nazianz community received their education at St. Gregory.

"A lot of generations that have been here, so I think that's one of the harder pieces, it's not uncommon to have 3-4 generations coming through this school, so there's a lot of emotions connected," says Steffen.

While students say it's sad to see their school close, they will cherish the memories and their lifelong connections.

"We know everyone here, we know kids that are in kindergarten and we're close to them and we get to spend time with them," says Alayna.

And on Friday, the last day of school, they'll share a few tears.

"Oh I'm sure there's going to be plenty," says Steffen, "from everybody."

On Saturday, June 16, Bishop David Ricken will join the community for a special mass and legacy celebration for St. Gregory School.

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