Small class sizes, rigorous curriculum and academic excellence all make Sts. Philip and James School in Canal Fulton an educational contender.

Small class sizes, rigorous curriculum and academic excellence all make Sts. Philip and James School in Canal Fulton an educational contender. Add history and tradition into the mix and the Catholic school moves to the top of the list of potential schools for elementary and middle school students.

The school's history goes back more than 140 years. Saints Philip and James School (SPJ) opened in 1875 with 12 boys and 16 girls and one lay teacher. Records show the old school was torn down and a new school was built in 1935. Another section was added in 1967 and the second floor was built in 1979.

The Sisters of Notre Dame staffed the school from 1883 to 1885 and again from 1941 to 1975. Today, the school is staffed with highly qualified, state certified teachers.

Kristie Cramer, director of enrollment with Holy Cross Academy, said there are currently 116 students in grades kindergarten through eighth with 10 in the preschool.

“SPJ, as do all of our HCA schools, intentionally have small class sizes so that students are able to actively participate in a way that matters to them, because class sizes are smaller teachers are able to teach in a means that encourages excitement in learning by each student,” Cramer said. “There is no doubt that Catholic Schools allow individualized learning experiences. As the Director of Enrollment, I've seen countless examples of ways that SPJ individualizes learning, from making fun hands on science projects like volcanoes, to the Passion Mime and school musical which students look forward to each year, the staff at SPJ does a great job of involving every student and tapping into each child's unique talents and interests,” she said.

UPHOLDING TRADITIONS

Traditions are an important part of the faith-based education at SPJ. One of the many traditions at SPJ includes a 33-year-old Passion Mime play that students participate every year. It's a play for mimes adapted from Matthew 21:1-11 and Matthew 27:11-61. Cramer said the play has become almost a right of passage for students in the eighth grade.

Another tradition at the school is incorporating its location next to the Canal into the classroom. Being so close allows the teachers to build the history and the nature surrounding the canal into lesson plans.

“There are a number of activities in the school that occur through use of the Canal and the location there in Canal Fulton. They discuss the history of Canal Fulton and use the canal as real world example of science and the importance of waterways in development of a community,” Cramer said.

The school has a long history of serving students and families from Jackson Township, Canal Fulton, Massillon, Canton, Green, Clinton and Orrville.

Yet another long held tradition is the support parents and the community offer. Parents hold an annual silent auction to raise money for the school among other activities they help with throughout the year.

“Parents at the school help in the cafeteria, with recess duty and volunteer to help in the classroom. SPJ has a long tradition of a very committed and active parent group that helps the school each year. They did raise $80,000 last year in their auction. Parents are in the midst of planning their auction this year and I suspect they will top last year's success,” Cramer said.

HIGH EXPECTATIONS

While traditions are important, having a rigorous curriculum is imperative at SPJ. The school teaches 21st Century Skills. Cramer said they are working on implementing classes based on STREAM (science, technology, religion, arts and medicine) curriculum. There are also many creative arts programs open to students.

Advanced math with algebra credits for high school, outdoor education, hands on learning, technology classes with computer programming and many other learning opportunities are available to students attending SPJ.

“Students at our schools pray each day, multiple times a day, attend a weekly liturgy and participate in service learning through service projects and mission awareness,” Cramer said.

Some of the extracurricular activities include kindness groups, spelling bee, Math Counts competition, swimming lessons, field trips, science/physics fair and Power of the Pen. Sports programs such as football, baseball, volleyball, soccer, cheerleading, track, lacrosse and cross country are available.

“Faith-based education is embedded in everything we do at SPJ. Many of our kids go on to attend Central Catholic High School. SPJ is just a great school serving a great community,” Cramer said.