Two new Upstate Catholic schools open

GREENVILLE — The new school year is here, and two Catholic schools are offering Upstate parents more education options for their children than they had this time last year.

For the first time, Prince of Peace Parish in Taylors is offering a first-grade and a second-grade class, and St. Joseph Catholic School (formerly St. Joseph High School) on the south side of Greenville has opened sixth- and seventh-grade classes.

Eleven first-grade students and seven second-graders are enrolled at Prince of Peace, according to Ann Smith, director of education at the parish. They join 26 students enrolled for the 2003-04 school year in the parish’s new full-day kindergarten program.

Smith said the first- and second-grade programs include four full-time teachers, one teaching assistant and part-time music, physical education and Spanish teachers.

Response to the new program has been predictable.

“Based on the fact that we have yet to build our reputation, it’s not a surprise that we’re going to start off the year small,” Smith said.

She said she’s asked the teachers to use the small size of the classes to their advantage.

“You can do so much with a class of 13 or 14, or a class of 11 or seven, that you could never do with a class of 20 or 25 students,” Smith said.

That individual classroom attention should help the young school build its reputation, which in turn should help boost enrollment in the years ahead, she said.

Plans call for adding a grade each year as the current second-grade class moves up, topping off with an eighth-grade class.

“It remains to be seen whether we’ll double each grade as we move up,” Smith said. That decision will be made based on yearly enrollment.

Tricia McCaffrey said she has one child enrolled in first grade at Prince of Peace, and two more in the parish’s preschool program.

“It’s nice to be able to have all three of them in one facility,” McCaffrey said.

“There are so many people I know who want to provide their children with a Catholic education, and Prince of Peace is making that come true for a lot of people.”

This year’s classes will be held in the parish’s existing religious education building, with current plans calling for all of the elementary classes to be held there, and construction of either a new building or a separate wing for the middle school grades, Smith said.

“Our mantra is to be a school that is authentically Catholic, academically excellent and financially feasible,” Smith said, “so that all families who want to choose a Catholic education for their children have the opportunity to do so.”

At St. Joseph, the school has started its second decade by opening sixth- and seventh-grade classes at its campus off Interstate 85. There is one seventh-grade class of 23 students and two sixth-grade classes with 16 students in each class.

Michael Pennell, who is heading the middle school, said the school has hired three full-time middle school teachers, and four current high school teachers will work part time at the middle school.

An administrative assistant, Jackie Rourke, has also been hired for the middle school.

Classes for the middle school students are being held on the second floor of the St. Joseph administrative building, separate from the high school students. Middle school students will share the high school’s science lab, Pennell said.

The school plans to add an eighth grade class next year.