Catholic High School to Move into Vacant St. Joseph’s School

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Students will once again fill the classrooms of St. Joseph’s School, a vacant school building adjacent to the St. Gabriel parish on Mainstreet in Hopkins.

Chesterton Academy, a private high school with two campuses, plans to move its Edina campus to downtown Hopkins, with classes expected to commence in the fall.

“We’re very anxious to be a good neighbor and a good partner with downtown Hopkins,” said Christopher Olley, executive director of Chesterton Academy.

The Catholic school originated 12 years ago from home-school families seeking to continue their children’s Catholic school education after grade school and at a cost that was affordable. The families also wanted classical education, which Olley described as heavily focused on reading, writing, oratory and arts.

For example, students are required to take Latin their first two years, along with art and theater or drama.

Currently, the 9-12 school is based in a building along France Avenue in Edina, with students coming as far as Belle Plaine and Jordan.

The new Hopkins location will provide greater accessibility for those families via Highway 169 and also provide a nearby Catholic church for the students to attend daily Mass, Olley said. The school currently buses students to other church locations to attend Mass five days a week.

“Now, we will be able to walk 10 feet to Mass, which will make our life much easier,” he said.

The new location will also provide the school with an opportunity to grow as this will be its long-term home, he said.

“It’s an opportunity to grow and have a connection with a local church in a beautiful location in downtown Hopkins,” Olley said.

The St. Joseph’s school was built in the 1920s, with additions in the 1960s. It operated as a K-8 school until the mid-1990s. The parishes of St. Joseph’s and St. John’s merged in 2013 under the new name, St. Gabriel the Archangel.

In 2003, the school was renovated for the Main Street School of Performing Arts, which operated there for 14 years. That school relocated to Eden Prairie in 2017.

Since then, the school building has been vacant.

With 150 students expected to begin class in the fall, the building will undergo some improvements, such as installing new carpet, lighting and whiteboards to update classrooms.

Also planned are changes to the science laboratory and transforming current performance space into a black box theater where the school can host concerts and theater performances, Olley explained.

“We can be a part of a community ... and invite our neighbors to come to a play,” Olley said.

The location will allow students more opportunities by being so close to the downtown amenities, he noted.

Father Jim Liekhus of the St. Gabriel congregation is also excited to have a Catholic school in that building.

The congregation was looking to transform the building for its own parish ministries when church leaders were approached by Chesterton Academy.

“Because we really weren’t looking for a new school to move in, but a Catholic high school would be the one exception that we’d make to that,” he said.

Most elementary Catholic schools are attached to a supporting parish, whereas most Catholic high schools already have their own land or building.

“It’s a rare opportunity to have a fully formed Catholic high school just move in without needing parish support,” Liekhus said, noting the congregation will lease the space to private school.

He’s also looking forward to welcoming Chesterton students and staff members to Hopkins.

“They’ll be coming in and seeing our great city, which is kind of exciting,” he said.