History of St. John Paul II Elementary School

John Paul BlocksSt. John Paul II Preschool History

During the winter of 1994, Sheela Shermetzler, Director of Religious Education, had been receiving numerous requests from parish members regarding the possibility of a preschool.  Sheela approached Rosie Rye about teaching, and the planning began.  In 1994, St. Matthews Catholic Church opened its doors to their first preschool students. The preschool was named St. Matthew’s Preschool and was held in the old St. Matthew's Activities Center on Douglas Highway, the current location of Rocky Mountain Discount Sports. They began with three classes:
Mrs. Rye taught by herself at that facility for four years.  During approximately the last two years at the Douglas Highway location, the planning and construction of the new Family Life Center took place.  

In the summer of 1999 the preschool moved out of the Activities Center and into the new Family Life Center, located at 1000 Butler-Spaeth Road.  In those first four years at the new location, parents asked for more days for 4 & 5 year olds, resulting in Friday morning classes being added for any 4 & 5 year olds.  The requests for additional classes and student capacity continued, allowing for more classes to be offered:Preschool Kids
In the spring of 2012 planning began for all-day pre-Kindergarten (pre-k) for 4 & 5 year olds.  The all-day pre-k program began in the fall of 2013 in Mrs. Rye's classroom and half-day preschool classes continued in another classroom. As the elementary classes grew in size and space requirements, the half-day preschool classroom was needed for elementary students.  Due to the needs of the elementary students, the half-day preschool classes were moved into the former St. Matthew's rectory/office building at 900 Butler Spaeth Road after an extensive summer restoration project.  Now called the Preschool Center, two classrooms were opened offering the following half-day preschool classes:
Generally the classes are close to capacity with 16 students per class.  The all-day pre-k program continues in the Family Life Center with 18 students taught by Rosie Rye.  The preschool was in the Family Life Center for approximately 8 years before the elementary school opened and Lynn Grassel was the first principal. 

Kindergarten - 6th grade History

St. Matthew’s began the process of opening a school by first conducting a feasibility study through Catholic University in 2006.  Through many surveys and meetings with parish members, Catholic University discovered that there was sufficient interest and commitment from the parish and community to open a Catholic school.  Once that conclusion was reached, a school planning committee was formed to decide which curricula would be used as well as developing a mission statement for the school.  The mission statement that was officially shaped still stands today: “In unity with St. Matthew’s Catholic Community, the mission of John Paul II Catholic school at St. Matthew’s is to build a strong Catholic foundation of faith, family, community and academics in a warm and welcoming, caring and Christ-centered environment.”

K-6 History PictureThe doors of the school opened in August of 2007 with a student enrollment of about 65 kids, not including the preschool program.  Led by Principal Lynn Grassel, there was:
We offered Music and P.E., which were taught by Anne Langevin and Amy Gorsuch respectively.  Art and Spanish were offered through volunteers who came into the classrooms to teach.

Because we were a new school, we wanted to create an atmosphere that partnered with students and parents to form the identity of the school.  A contest was launched to come up with a school mascot.  Students submitted ideas along with drawings of their mascot that they wished to represent our school.  Many were submitted and then the students voted on their choice.  The winner was our current mascot, “Messengers” represented by a dove, submitted by one of our 6th grade students.

After the first year, interest in the school increased more in both our parish and the community.  We fortunately received a lot of good press, and our enrollment increased enough to split all grade levels into separate sections.  New staff was hired to fill the growing needs.
Our third year we continued to grow, with 2 sections of kindergarten.  Emily Anderson was hired to teach the 2nd class of kindergarteners.  A second section of 2nd grade was also needed, so Amy Fulton was hired to take it on.  We took 5th grade out of the departmentalization, keeping Keri Griffith as the teacher for that grade.

It was in our 4th year that Cliff Davis (Language Arts/History) and Bonnie Kuhbacher(Science/Math) were hired to take over the Jr. High levels after Richard’s retirement.  Amy Fulton was moved up to teach 6th grade.  In year 5 at John Paul II Catholic School, Don Scott was hired to replace Lynn Grassel as principal after her retirement.  Additionally, it was determined that the Jr. High program needed to be retired as we could not financially continue to support it.  We would continue to focus our efforts at the kindergarten through 6th grade levels.

The following year, Melanie Sylte was hired as principal and we continue to grow each year.  Ultimately John Paul Catholic School has grown very fast.  Each year enrollment climbs by 10-15 students.  The school now supports three half day pre-school classes, one full-day pre-kindergarten class, 2 sections in kindergarten and 1st grade, a section and a half of 2nd  grade, a section and a half of 3rd grade, and full sections of 4th, 5th and 6th grades.  We maintain P.E., Music, Art, Spanish, Library, and Special Education teachers on staff so that our students are fully rounded.  Additionally, our studetns are surrounded by the staff and members of St. Matthew’s parish on a daily basis to help them grow in their Catholic knowledge and faith.