I have family who are public school teachers and they are not always kind about Catholic schools accusing them of accepting “typical students” while turning more challenging students away - particularly students who learn differently. Now, I know there are some Catholic schools that do more. For example, St. Adelbert has the Steps Program and other schools enroll students on a limited basis such as St. Francis de Sales. But these wonderful programs were not meeting the great need.
Returning to school after Thanksgiving, I was telling the principal of the day school about this dilemma and how I wished we had the capability, space and resources to help these children and their families. She said, “The principal from the Julie Billiart School in Lyndhurst is downstairs helping us with our accreditation. You should talk to her.” The Julie Billiart School (JB) is a Catholic school in Lyndhurst, Ohio founded by the Noter Dame Sisters that serves the population of students we had failed to serve.
I told Jodi Johnson, the principal, about my thoughts and her eyes widened. “The school just decided that we should expand our mission and open new schools and we were looking for a way to do that!”
From there on it has been a rollercoaster of activity. As soon as it got out that we were opening the school we were receiving phone calls asking when we would start enrolling. (We didn’t even have a building yet.) Numerous stories came out about how people moved from our area because they we didn’t have the resources that they wanted for their children. It seemed we were on the right path.
There was lots of prayer and soul searching. Many people stepped forward to help out. Building were looked at. Recognition from the state as well as the Catholic Church (no easy thing!) were sought. Through it all we trusted both St. Julie and St; Sebastian (with a little extra help from St. Joseph when we were looking for a building.) Every couple of weeks or so we would come up against a seemingly monumental and impenetrable stone wall and say, “That’s it! We really tried. But I guess it’s just no meant to be! St. Julie and St. Sebastian, if you want this to go forward, you are going to have to do something!” And I kid you not, the next day it was if the wall turned to wet tissue in a rainstorm and we marched ahead.
It may be years later with many interesting stories, blood, sweat, and tears - valiant work on the part of many hands, but this Tuesday we will open our doors to the first classes of K - 3 with the goal of being a K - 12 school in a few years. If it is successful, it is hoped that it will be a string of schools helping children all over our diocese and beyond! I am so thankful. Please keep this project and all of its people in your prayers.