For over 125 years, the community of St. Paul has dedicated itself to education that meets the specific needs of its students in a way that is second to none. St. Paul formed as a rural community in the 1850s. The original parish of only 47 families changed from a rural congregation in the 1850s, to a mostly urban population in the 1950s. The population grew to over 1700 families at its height in the 1980s. The school population also changed over the years. Beginning with only a few children, St. Paul School Catholic School grew to its largest, over 800 children, in the 1960s, and is now at about 260 students. The change has mirrored the changes in the surrounding neighborhoods as they changed from rural to suburban with urban characteristics, and now are mature neighborhoods of mostly older adults.
From the beginning, diversity has been a central theme. The founding parish of 47 families included 33 English-speaking families and 14 German-speaking families. Education, particularly English, reading, and math, was a priority. Learning space changed from time to time; including the basement, boiler room, parish meeting hall (old church) and, finally, its own facility. The first dedicated schoolhouse, with two classrooms, was dedicated in 1925, and remains in use today.
Change is a prevailing theme in the St. Paul community. The city of Florence blossomed after WWI, moving from mostly rural to urban. St. Paul Catholic School changed as well, growing to meet the needs of its students. At least five different construction projects have added space for the school, including classrooms in the basement of the latest church building. In 1988, when a new parish, St. Timothy, opened in Union, KY, St. Paul Catholic School became the school for that parish as well until 2017. Typically, St. Paul remained focused on its mission, even in the face of significant change.
St. Paul Catholic School puts the learning of its students at the top of its priorities. In the tradition of the Catholic Church and the Benedictine Sisters, who first staffed the school, St. Paul Catholic School continues to stress the whole child with its emphasis on spiritual, academic, social, physical, and emotional development of its students. Innovation continues to be a constant. In the early years, St. Paul was a welcome place for immigrants; forsaking the prejudices of the day. In the 1960s, St. Paul Catholic School was at the leading edge of educational innovation as the first non-graded primary classes were instituted. After returning to a more traditional class arrangement in the mid-1980s, St. Paul was among the first parochial schools to hire a dedicated learning specialist to help students with specific learning needs. Later, St. Paul Catholic School was among the original schools in the Diocese to organize a group to help schools meet the diverse needs of students.
For over 25 years, St. Paul Catholic School has emphasized a commitment to serve students with special needs. A certified learning disabilities teacher has been a staff member over that time, creating a tradition of inclusive education. Currently, the school serves students with a wide range of special needs from ADHD, to specific learning disabilities, to Down syndrome. The faculty and staff are strongly committed to developing accommodations that promote success for all students. The staff provides a challenging learning environment for every student and encourages a social dynamic of acceptance between students of all learning styles. Students may also take advantage of speech and language pathology services provided at school through the local public district. Additionally, teachers at all grade levels offer opportunities for students to receive additional instruction. At St. Paul Catholic School, learning is the constant; instruction is adjusted to meet the needs of the student. Differentiation is the norm.
Family involvement is a social imperative at St. Paul Catholic School. A dynamic and innovative PTO works tirelessly to help ensure everyone at St. Paul Catholic School has a great experience—families, students, and members of the staff. Our PTO raises about $75,000 annually for the school. The funds help provide necessary items, such as new books, and community-building activities like the Kick-off Picnic and Santa’s Workshop. Parents routinely volunteer in the school as helpers in the library. The PTO recently donated $4,000 to purchase a new stove/oven for the cafeteria. Almost every family with children in the school (and many whose children have long since graduated) volunteers for the weekly bingo fundraiser. A complete range of athletic opportunities is available to students thanks to the volunteers who coach, schedule, and otherwise organize the parish sports program.
St. Paul Catholic School is a learning community.