St. Martin de Porres to restructure, focus on early education

Students at St. Martin de Porres School in Columbia learn about Newton's Laws and how they apply to kinetic and potential energy through a hands-on lesson. (Provided)

COLUMBIA—St. Martin de Porres will begin the fall school year with a new grade structure, reorganized to follow a pre-school model that will serve K3 to third grade.

Currently, it serves students through sixth grade. Those students will have a promotion ceremony to the middle/high school levels, and the students in fourth and fifth grade will have the option of attending another Catholic school, said Delores Gilliard, principal. She noted that both St. Peter and St. Joseph schools are nearby.

St. Martin de Porres is the fourth school to undergo restructuring as the diocese strives to bring a strong sense of financial accountability to all of its schools, said John Reyes, assistant superintendent of academic excellence and budget supervision.

St. Joseph in Anderson was the first to be reorganized, moving to a format of multi-age classrooms at the start of the 2019-2020 year, Reyes said.

So far, the change has been effective.

“They’re one of the fastest growing schools in our diocese this year,” he said.

St. Joseph has enrolled 15 new students, which translates to a 25% jump, Reyes said, noting that, “percentage-wise, it’s off the chart.”

Diocesan officials, in conjunction with the Office of Education, also recently announced the restructuring of St. Paul the Apostle in Spartanburg and St. Anne & St. Jude in Sumter.

Starting in the fall, St. Paul will serve K4 through fifth grades, as opposed to the current K4 through eighth. St. Anne & St. Jude will reopen in the fall as Holy Angels Academy, cut the cost of its tuition, add K-4 to its curriculum, and change its focus to primary education. Students in grades 7-12 will be given the opportunity to attend Cardinal Newman School in Columbia.

Reyes said the changes are being made as a way for all the schools to be better stewards. He noted that the schools subsidize about $2,500 per student in order to make Catholic education affordable to as many families as possible. In order to maintain low tuitions, officials are looking at a variety of approaches to make the schools the best they can be while still serving the community with strong academics and evangelization of the faith. 

“Every school has the potential for growth, to be more vibrant and serve kids and families,” he said.

For St. Martin de Porres, that means changing its focus to early childhood enrollment and individual instruction, Gilliard said.

She noted that the K3 class is less expensive than daycare, and the two K4 classes will be under the First Steps program. They also hope to receive grants and other options to help subsidize tuition for the older grades.

“Our goal is to continue offering our boys and girls a rigorous education through faith and academics,” she said. “We want to continue our mission. St. Martin has been in this community since 1936.”