February 28, 2013

A new communication network will allow Catholic schools in the Sioux City Diocese to communicate easier after the diocese was awarded an $18,000 grant from Our Sunday Visitor.

Our Sunday Visitor is a Catholic newspaper founded by Archbishop John Francis Noll in 1912. The paper publishes six periodicals and is quickly becoming the country's largest supplier of offering envelopes.

"During the long-range planning sessions for our schools, it became quite apparent we needed a more-efficient way to communicate with each other as travel times for regional meetings were proving to be somewhat unfavorable," said Sharon Dentlinger, assistant superintendent of the diocese's schools said in a press release. "Each of the 16 school systems in our diocese has several representatives participating in these meetings. With the long-range-planning process to continue for the next several months, we determined there was definitely a need for the virtual reality technology to make these meetings more convenient for the participants."

Six locations have been designated as virtual reality hubs. The locations are St. Edmond Catholic Schools in Fort Dodge, Kuemper Catholic Schools in Carroll, Gehlen Catholic Schools in LeMars, Sacred Heart Catholic Parish in Spencer, Bishop Garrigan Catholic Schools in Algona and St. Mary Catholic Schools in Storm Lake.

The Office of Education has already planned several webinars during the next few months on Catholic identity, mission effectiveness, planning and structure and marketing enrollment.

The programs that will be offered to all board members and school administrators will help them gain a stronger understanding of how to best serve the parishes and schools, according to the press release.

Vern Henkenius, president of Kuemper Catholic Schools, said the virtual reality lab is already set up at Kuemper.

It's located in the Iowa Communications Network room on the southeast side of the first floor of the St. Angela Center.

Henkenius said the new system will allow board members and administrators to join in on meetings from home computers.

The first meeting is scheduled for tonight for the long-range planning subcommittee. Henkenius said the log-in anywhere option might be helpful for this particular meeting.

"We didn't have anything to do with initiating the planning," Henkenius said of the virtual reality lab. "But when we heard they were looking for sites, for schools to participate, we volunteered from the beginning. We said we can put the equipment in our building."

He said students from Denison and Boone can come to Kuemper to participate in the virtual reality lab.