Upon its opening 100 years ago, the North Canton school had 100 students.
NORTH CANTON On Sept. 8, 1919, St. Paul Catholic Church opened the doors to a new school, one that continues to thrive a century later.
Three special Masses will be held Sunday to celebrate at 9 a.m, 10:30 a.m., and noon, along with a school blessing and open house, food trucks and children’s activities.
On Monday, St. Paul students will embark on 100 Acts of Service from 9:15 to 11:30 a.m. as a “thank you” to the community.
Upon its opening 100 years ago, St. Paul School had 100 students, led by two members of the Sisters of Humility, Sister Dorothy Goodman and Sister Alma Mullaly.
Principal Amie Hale has served for five years, succeeding Jackie Zufall. Hale said her original plan was to become a principal after her three sons reached school age, but an announcement during one Sunday Mass changed those plans.
“Father Jay Clarke announced in church that there was an opening,” she said. “It just felt a calling, like I was supposed to apply.”
Hale said St. Paul has withstood the trend of shrinking private and parochial schools, enjoying “subtle but steady” growth. The preschool class doubled in size this year to 74 children.
It has the second-largest parochial school enrollment in the county, next to St. Michael School in Plain Township.
There are 24 full- and part-time teachers. None are women religious.
“I myself am a parent, so I know parents are seeking a smaller atmosphere, smaller classes and a faith component,” Hale said. “It does take a village. Having a faith-based component reinforces everything they’re’ trying to teach their kids.”
In 2014, St. Paul was among a handful of local Catholic schools unaffected by the Youngstown Diocese’s “Transition for Growth” plan, which consolidated some schools and closed others in response to declining enrollment in its six-county region, which includes Stark County.
The school is enjoying growth despite not accepting Ed Choice vouchers and its proximity to North Canton’s top-notch public school system. During the 2000-2001 school year, the administration acquired the designation of a “National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.”
“We’re surrounded by great public schools, so it’s a testament,” Hale said.
She credits the success to the staff’s commitment and the unwavering support of parents and the community.
“It’s definitely a family atmosphere,” she said. “Everyone here is a team, doing all they can, to the benefit of the students.”
St. Paul features award-winning academic teams who compete at district and state-level science fairs, art contests, writing competitions, and Lego and robotic competitions. Its theater program serves more than 150 students and does two major musical productions a year.
Students grades in six through eight also have opportunities to learn about careers through program called Centers for Learning, which allows them to pursue a specific path of study.
As a component of the school’s Catholic identity, St. Paul students undertake service hours throughout the year. The school’s entranceway features a large cross made from more than 3,000 Lego bricks, each representing an hour of public service performed by student over the last three years.
Hale said Monday’s 100 Acts of Service is just the start of year-long celebration.
“Our hope is by having the kickoff on Monday, we can do something each month,” she said. “It’s a way to give back to the community to thank them for the past 100 years. Hopefully, we’ll be here for 100 more and beyond. It’s also a way to let them know we’re here to help and serve them.”
For more information about St. Paul, call 330-494-0223.
On Twitter: @cgoshayREP