St. Joe’s adding sixth

Catholic school to add grade in 2018-19

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry St. Joseph Catholic School in Warren will add sixth grade next year.

St. Joseph Catholic School will add sixth grade for the 2018-2019 school year.

After more than a year of consideration and study, officials at the school have decided to offer sixth grade — but not seventh and eighth grades

“Good news abounds at St. Joseph’s,” Principal Nancy Warner said. “St. Joseph Catholic School is pleased to announce that it will be adding a sixth grade beginning with the 2018-19 school year. The school currently offers classes in pre-K through fifth grade and has an enrollment of 151 in those grades and has a 60 percent to 40 percent Catholic to non-Catholic student enrollment.”

“In early 2016, Bishop Lawrence Persico of the Erie Roman Catholic Diocese, instructed the pastor and staff of St. Joseph Catholic School in Warren to complete a feasibility study on whether or not St. Joseph should expand its grades through eighth grade,” Warner said. “The Feasibility Study Team, headed by (former principal) Dr. Howard Ferguson, got right to work.”

The team — Fr. Rick Tomasone, Ferguson, Dr. Robert Gatto, Joe Fire, Marlene Sandberg, Andrea Kiehl, Heather Alexander, Carrie Pearson, Andy Sokolski, Barbara Smelko, Teresa Abplanalp, Pamela Nasman, Fr. Jim Gutting, with Warner serving as an observer — created five subcommittees to look at all of the angles.

“Cost analysis, local business and enrollment demographics, student and family surveys, teacher and parishioner surveys, and school history were all factored into the decision to add the sixth grade,” Warner said.

“Student and family surveys indicated a strong desire to stay through sixth grade,” she said. But, those surveys also showed that families would look to transfer their students into the Warren County School District for seventh grade in what was a natural time for a transition.

“The teachers and I recently met with the parents of our fourth and fifth grade students to discuss and explain the plans for our upcoming sixth grade addition,” Warner said. “The school continues to have a strong working relationship with the Warren County School District in order to prepare St. Joseph students for a smooth and successful transition into the local school district at the seventh grade level.”

The transition point combined with the large expenditures needed to added seventh and eighth grades were enough to convince the team not to expand beyond sixth grade.

“There were several factors that contributed to the decision not to add a seventh and eighth grade,” Warner said. “The most influencing was the anticipated extensive costs involved in adding on to the school and in providing science labs for students in those grades.”

“An education at St. Joseph is rooted in the Gospel values,” Warner said. “The curriculum is rigorous and meets all Diocesan and Pennsylvania Department of Education requirements. We are very proud to report that our fifth grade students from the 2016-17 school year scored higher in every academic area on the Terra Nova (standardized test), than did any other fifth grade class from the 27 other elementary schools in the Diocese of Erie. Our 2017 Terra Nova results should be back to us in late November.”