Fri, Nov. 15

St. Joseph's a thriving 4-year-old
Still building, adding classes and grades

VVN/Philip Wright
From a one-room school four years ago, St. Joseph's Catholic School is now beginning its second building project in two years.

VVN/Philip Wright From a one-room school four years ago, St. Joseph's Catholic School is now beginning its second building project in two years.

Greg Kirkham, principal at St. Joseph's Catholic School in Cottonwood, is understandably excited about everything that's going on with his school. The school board recently voted to approve another expansion, and the school will offer another kindergarten class and an eighth-grade class next fall.

Kirkham said the school opened four years ago as a one-room Montessori with 22 students in kindergarten through fourth grade. Last summer a new classroom and offices were added, and 70 students attended pre-school through seventh grade this year.

"Next year, we're expecting between 83 and 90 students," Kirkham said.

This summer a new building will be added to the campus at 2715 E. SR 89A. Next fall, an eighth-grade class will be added, and a second kindergarten class will allow the school to offer both Montessori and traditional kindergarten.

"Next year will be our first graduating class," Kirkham said.

The new building will give the school another full classroom. "We've hired one new teacher and a new reading specialist who will also be a religious education instructor," Kirkham said.

"The goal is to serve the students of this tri-city community," he said. "It's really a Verde Valley school."

Kirkham said there is some confusion in the community about St. Joseph's.

"Some people think we're still a Montessori," he said. The school will continue to offer the option of Montessori for pre-school and kindergarten, but first-through-eighth grades are styled on traditional education methods.

"Beyond kindergarten, it's strictly traditional," Kirkham said.

Another misconception people have about St. Joseph's is that families must be Catholic to send their children. Not true.

"About 40 percent of our students are non-Catholic," Kirkham said. "We don't try to convert kids."

He points out, however, that it is a faith-based education and religion is taught. Since it is a Catholic school, it is Catholicism that's taught.

"We do ask that children come to us self-disciplined," Kirkham said. "We are not an alternative school for children with behavioral problems."

He said the school doesn't have much in the way of discipline problems. He says that's because the school's parents are very involved.

"Our teachers put together wonderful education programs," Kirkham said, "and it would be unfair to let one child take away from those programs."

Kirkham said that many people mistakenly believe that because St. Joseph's is a private school it is not affordable for most families.

"It's affordable," he said. "We have Catholic school tuition. It's $4,700 per year." But most children who attend St. Joseph's receive substantial scholarships.

Merrily Pychinka, administrative assistant, said there are basically two scholarship programs. One is based on need and the other is based on availability.

She said that currently the highest scholarship is $3,525, and the lowest is $2,890.

"Everybody that completes an application receives a scholarship," Pychinka said.

During summer vacation interested families can reach Kirkham for information, to arrange a tour or to set an appointment at (928) 202-0044.

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