BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — St. Joseph Catholic School has continued to grow over the past decade, surpassing 400 students in pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.
Record-high enrollment has caused a need for more classroom space to accommodate the growing student body.
“For the past 12 years, our school enrollment has grown by 175 students,” said Fr. Eric Schild. “Our principal, Dave Nichols, took over 12 years ago and since then it has grown exponentially. That has been a huge blessing for us, obviously.”
The challenge, though, has been how to manage the growth.
Local residents driving past the school and parish on West Broadway Street in Maumee may have noticed fencing and equipment on the property, which is laying the groundwork for a small expansion.
“The first phase is a four-classroom expansion on the school that will mainly be used for our preschool program,” Schild said. “We will have state-of-the-art preschool classrooms that then give us other classrooms to be used for the other students.”
The classrooms will be built around the gymnasium and offer a small amount of additional storage space.
“We began planning probably a year and a half ago, but it was a year ago that we began our capital campaign, which is called ‘Going Big for Christ,’” Schild said.
The parish and its supporters have raised $3.6 million for the project, which has Rupp/Rosebrock as the general contractor.
Many parishioners have served as subcontractors on the project, offering their expertise to complete it by May of next year, so preschool students can make use of it for the 2024-25 school year.
“This is exciting stuff and to have this is really going to be a game-changer for our students and their families,” Schild said.
The students are among 2,500 registered families for the parish, which has added to the challenge.
In addition to a growing school, the parish needs more seating in the church, meeting rooms and more.
“We also need additional space for Heartbeat of Toledo,” Schild added. “We are partnering with Heartbeat of Toledo, and they are going to have a satellite office here for their Heart to Heart program, which is parenting classes and a boutique.”
After the first phase of the expansion is completed and the classrooms are ready for students, the parish will move to the next phase, adding additional space for those necessities on the land available next to the parish on the corner of Conant and Broadway streets.
Creating more room for the parish will also allow for space for Christian counselors.
“We’re seeing the mental health crisis is huge these days, so again we are looking to add space to have counselors available for parishioners and beyond,” Schild said.
The school will also continue to expand its staff, when four Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament join the school next year.
“We’re not getting rid of teachers for that, but we’ll have the presence of the sisters in addition to the teachers, which is going to be huge. A lot of people when they think of Catholic education, they think of religious sisters, and there hasn’t been as many sisters these days,” Schild added.
The parish will be using a local home to serve as its convent.
With each year, the parish and school grow, so church leaders are happy to find new ways to expand the space in uptown Maumee.
“The beautiful thing is that a number of years ago, my predecessor Fr. Keith Stripe made the decision to remain here in uptown Maumee,” Schild said, noting that Stripe and the parishioners wanted to remain in Maumee and work to create the space they needed.
They’ve also enjoyed staying in a community that cares about revitalization and beautification of the uptown spaces.
“We take that very seriously on our property, so I love that the city is taking that very seriously on their property,” Schild said. “I’ve been a big proponent of it, and I think the momentary inconveniences are worth it.”
Local residents who are walking and driving past the school will see construction equipment and fencing over the next several months, but the walls will soon be added and the expansion will quickly take place, allowing the school to grow with its students.