St. John Catholic Elementary School is situated in the “heart of the community” in the core of Kitchener. The original school building was constructed in 1929 and is listed on the City of Kitchener Heritage Register. The school sits adjacent to St. John’s Roman Catholic Church, founded over 80 years ago by Monsignor William Gleason.
In June 2009, the Waterloo Catholic District School Board received funding approval from the Ministry of Education to reconstruct St. John Catholic Elementary School. At that time there was a strong desire to retain the heritage portion of the building and while that complicated the building design, the result was a new building that blended the old with the new and respected the Catholic heritage of the amalgamated school communities of St. John and Monsignor Gleason.
During the two years of demolition and re-construction, St John students and staff moved to Monsignor Gleason and began their journey to a community of one. At that time, the population of students was approximately 320 and was growing and there were 25 languages and cultures celebrated in this amalgamated school community.
St. John re-opened in 2012 after a two year renovation and tireless dedication and commitment on the part of students, families, school and WCDSB staff. If you have ever had the opportunity to walk through the NEW St. John, you immediately felt the warm embrace of our WCDSB vision: “Heart of the community, success for each, and a place for all”. The mural on the wall at the main entrance greets you in the languages of our students and families. The renovated building is truly a reflection of old and new. Of note are the L’Arche Crosses in each classroom and prayer space, blessed by Monsignor Kroetsch, symbolizing our faith and reflecting the unique community that is St. John.
The current enrolment at St. John Catholic School is approximately 430 students. We have 4 Kindergarten classrooms and 14 classrooms, Grades 1-8. More than half of our students primarily speak a second language at home. We have 50 staff including a Principal and Vice Principal and a full-time English Second Language teacher. We also have a YMCA settlement worker in our school one day a week. In addition to our core day school program we have an extended day program, both before and after school, and a Beyond the Bell program in the afternoon in partnership with the YMCA. In the summer we host the Summer Boost Program for improved literacy/numeracy. Our staff give generously of their time to support many activities for our students including WE team (social justice), intramurals, “extra” murals, sports teams, coding club and drama & dance clubs to name a few.
John the Baptist, our namesake, is best known for evangelization and his baptizing of Jesus. During his public ministry, John the Baptist was known for attracting large crowds across Judea and around the Jordan River. He told his followers to turn to Christ, calling him the “Lamb of God.” Following his baptism of Christ, John’s popularity grew. Like John the Baptist, we strive to attract crowds at St. John school who want to join us in celebrating the gift of our Catholic faith and all the amazing things that happen in this school community from Sacramental celebrations to Mass to family learning nights to Christmas in the Thunderdome to family movie night to family BBQs, the list goes on and on.
Like many schools built in the heart of communities back in the day, St. John has a rich history and strong ties to community partners including the Catholic Women’s League (very active with our school), the Cherry Park and Victoria Hills Community Associations, the Waterloo Region Catholic Schools Foundation, the Catholic Community Foundation of Waterloo Region, Nutrition for Learning (and the countless volunteers who support this vital breakfast program), Beyond the Bell (a YMCA after school program) and of course St. John’s Roman Catholic Parish under the pastoral leadership of Father Francisco Cruz. St. John’s Roman Catholic Church is unique in that it is bilingual, serving two parish communities: St. John the Baptist and Our Lady of Guadalupe. We have a dedicated and active School Council and many volunteers who energetically support the life of the school in any way. Thanks to the generous support of the donors who support the Waterloo Region Catholic Schools Foundation, the St. John Thunder Productions Crew features a drama production each year at the Registry Theatre. This year they will be performing “Little Mermaid Jr.”
Thank you for taking the time to read the story of St. John Catholic Elementary School so far…if you want to know more you will have to come and visit us. Our theme is: “I AM Resilient; I HAVE Potential; I CAN Learn.” You can also follow us on twitter @stjthunder.