New academic year means changes for classical school

By Benjamin Wideman | Special To The Compass | August 28, 2019

SJPII moves from Holy Family site to St. Philip site; Alex Wolf is new headmaster

GREEN BAY — St. John Paul II (SJPII) Classical School, a school within the Green Bay Area Catholic Education system (GRACE), is embracing its new home at St. Philip the Apostle Church campus.

For its first three years, SJPII was housed within the Holy Family Catholic School building at St. Agnes Church campus. The parish and adjoining school helped nourish SJPII’s steady growth.

Alex Wolf, new headmaster at St. John Paul II Classical School in Green Bay, is pictured in the school’s new home on the campus of St. Philip the Apostle Church. St. Philip Catholic School closed in 2006 and was occupied by Green Bay Public Schools from 2007 to 2018. (Benjamin Wideman | Special To The Compass)

Increasing enrollment at both schools presented an opportunity for SJPII to relocate, thus allocating more space for Holy Family and returning Catholic education to St. Philip for the first time in more than a decade.

“I’m blessed to be part of a school community like St. John Paul II Classical School that continues to evolve and has so many exciting changes taking place,” said new headmaster Alex Wolf, who served as a Catholic school administrator/teacher for the previous nine years, six of which were in the Diocese of Green Bay.

“Everyone has been very supportive of the school — parishioners, teachers, parents, the diocese, the GRACE system,” he added. “They have really helped our school excel in its mission.”

When SJPII opened three years ago, 33 students were enrolled in kindergarten through fourth grade. The following year, when fifth grade was added, enrollment increased to 53 students. And in the fall of 2018, upon adding sixth grade, 69 students attended SJPII.

The school expanded two more grade levels this year — seventh grade and a Montessori preschool program — and preliminary figures indicate enrollment of about 100 students this fall. With nine schools encompassing about 2,200 students, GRACE is one of the largest Catholic school systems in the state.

“We are blessed to have the opportunity to strengthen and grow St. John Paul II Classical School,” said Gerry Faller, GRACE director of strategic operations and finance, who was instrumental in helping relocate the school to the St. Philip the Apostle campus.

SJPII’s new home features dedicated rooms for nature study, art and music, as well as a library and room for student support services. In addition, an atrium space provides a learning area dedicated to support the “Catechesis of the Good Shepherd” religion program.

“Classical education returns to the basics: how to read, think and speak,” Wolf said. “These are the ‘three ways’ (or trivium) of grammar, logic and rhetoric. St. John Paul II Classical School bases its curricular model on the trivium.”

The school was named by Bishop David Ricken after the pope (now saint) who ordained him a bishop in 2000. Its mission is “to assist parents in their role as primary educators of their children. We cultivate young minds and hearts through the Catholic classical method of education in an authentic Catholic culture.”

Fr. Bill Hoffman, pastor at St. Philip the Apostle Parish, announced earlier this year to his parish: “Symbols of our Catholic faith will once again be front and center in classrooms and halls.”

The building now occupied by SJPII used to house St. Philip School. The parish school opened circa 1940 and was staffed by the Manitowoc-based Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity for many years. In the early 1960s, the school welcomed more than 900 students. St. Philip School closed at the conclusion of the 2005-2006 school year, and the building remained vacant the following year.

Green Bay Public Schools leased the building from the 2007-2008 school year through the 2018-2019 school year, opening the door for SJPII’s arrival this fall.

“We had a good relationship with Green Bay Public Schools … but we are happy to have a Catholic school here at our parish again,” said Bill Noel, St. Philip business manager and development director.

For more details, visit sjpclassical or email Alex Wolf at [email protected].

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