As the summer winds down from its busyness and activity, students, parents, and teachers alike all look forward to the new school year. As everyone returns to school, the big changes that have taken place will be very apparent. For several years, most of our classes have been at maximum capacity and as many parents seek to find better schooling options for their children, the waitlists for our small parish school have been growing.
Last year, each class from preschool to sixth grade only had one single class. In a huge effort to meet the needs of the parish and community, this year will see two classes for every single grade and a new full-day preschool option.
Previously a fifth-grade teacher, Dana Lashley accepted the position as our new principal last April.
“The decision to expand the school was announced just a few days before they offered me the position of principal,” Mrs. Lashley says. “I prayed and discerned whether I should jump at this opportunity or remain in the fifth-grade classroom since this task was very different than what I had applied for. But I truly felt that the Holy Spirit was at work here. I knew this was where I wanted to be because this school has such a special thing here and the expansion is an incredible opportunity. I am blessed to be able to walk our school and staff through this new growth.”
To expand classes all at once and on such a large scale is not the route that most schools typically take. But the school felt called to answer the requests of those in the community. With long waitlists, it was evident that the need was absolutely there.
“It is so amazing to be able to grow our family of families,” Mrs. Lashley says. “We are giving access to quality Catholic education for all of those families who desire it. God has a plan and these families are supposed to be here. I can’t tell you how incredible it is to not have to tell people ‘No, we don’t have room.’”
This expansion has been a huge undertaking for the entire community and wouldn’t be possible without the support of the parents and parishioners of Saint Michael Parish and School. With nine new staff members and nearly every teacher moving classrooms, there have been many challenges — but with help from volunteers and by working together as a team, everyone is so excited to have students back in the halls.
“These changes bring frustrations and anxieties, but I feel comfortable saying that the emotion everyone is predominantly experiencing is excitement,” Mrs. Lashley says. “And that excitement is the guiding force at the moment. We have done so many things to prepare the school itself and we are putting in place programs to help bring our new families into the community. There will be a new family orientation night where the new families will meet their host families and learn more about the school. We want them to feel welcome here and to be a part of our family.”
To maintain the small-school feel of the classes, an effort has been made to allow the two classes for each grade to have connected classrooms to help with collaboration and community of the classes. Except for second grade, the first through fifth grades have these connected classrooms.
Volunteers of parents and parishioners have helped with the many changes that have taken place in the school. Volunteers have painted hallways, moved and built furniture, and have simply been present to help with any tasks that need extra hands.
“It is a wonderful feeling to know that the parish community is here to support us and they are just as excited about the work we are doing here,” Mrs. Lashley says. “As our school grows, our volunteer needs grow as well. We have a new dynamic platform for parents to use to volunteer. This will make it easier for them to see what needs we have and to get involved. We also have a parishioner who was formerly a teacher here and is launching a parishioner volunteer program called Senior Spartans. We found a desire from parishioners who are retired to be more involved in the school. This program will help them connect with volunteer needs that suit the talents that God has given them so they can share their gifts with the school.”
As the new year begins, please keep our students, their families, and our staff in your prayers. These exciting changes will bring some challenges as the new year continues, but the teachers and staff are ready to embrace those changes and make this a great school year.
If you would like more information about Senior Spartans, contact Joan Joanis at firstname.lastname@example.org.