St. Charles School Keeps Growing
By Margarita Mendoza, El Observador Editor
October 25, 2018
ST. CHARLES—In the midst of consolidations and low enrollment in Catholic schools, St Patrick School here is experiencing something altogether different. 
“We are at maximum capacity in our enrollment.” said Veronica Day, preschool director.
The numbers reflect several factors. 
“Our enrollment grew because, first, we have an amazing and highly educated group of very involved and passionate teachers who care not only for the children they teach, but also for the parents and the community and culture of our school. 
Marmion Academy
tops enrollment goal
AURORA—More good enrollment news comes from Marmion Academy, here.
At the end of a five-year effort, the Benedictine high school opened this  year with its highest enrollment ever — 551 students. 
Look for more information about how the academy achieved its goal in an upcoming issue of The Observer.
“Secondly, we were privileged to have won ‘Best of the Fox,’ this year, which gave us the title of the best preschool in the Fox Valley. 
“Third,” she continued, “we have tremendous support from our parish and the main school.”
The “main school” is the kindergarten through eighth grade campus at the parish’s newer church at 6N491 Crane Road.
The preschool is housed in the school at the original, downtown church at 400 Cedar St.
Parents of 193 children — 101 boys and 92 girls, ages 2-4 — have enrolled their children in the preschool this year.
Mothers such as Layne Petit, Mara Ziesemer and Cecilia Feinberg agreed that teachers and staff make them feel like a family. 
“If a parent is sick, the moms rally and bring meals. If there is a problem with pick-ups, the teachers will roll with the situation,” said Petit, who has 4 1/2-year-old twin boys. 
“You never feel like your kids are not safe, and they feel loved,” she said. “Kids can never be loved by too many people, and this school is the epitome of ‘it takes a village.’ They are my village. 
“The teachers are amazing and the administrative staff makes you feel like family.”
Petit even appreciates the attention to decorations.
“The school is a kid’s playground,” she said. “Classrooms decorated from floor to ceiling in awesome stuff and its all for little kids, unlike some other schools where they have bigger kids too.”
Ziesemer is a mother of four. “Our children are ages 2, 4, 6 and 8. While they have all attended the preschool since our oldest started (at age 3), currently our 2- and 4-year-olds are in the PK2 and PK4 programs,” she said.
Ages determine a student’s class placement, with PK2 for 2-year-olds, PK3 for 3-year-olds and PK4 for 4-year-olds.
 “The older two have moved onto the big school,” Ziesemer said, referring to the what Day called the “main school.” 
“It was not our original intention to continue with Catholic school,” she said,  “particularly in such a great public school district, but we loved the preschool so much we didn’t want to leave.”
The school has a “good solid program. They are not only a daycare, they have an educational program. The kids learn basic skills and faith,” said Michael Kagan, superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Rockford.
The facility used to accommodate the students of the grade school, from kindergarten to eighth grade, before the new school was built on Crane Road.
Today “they have an abundance of space including the full sized gymnasium and playgrounds at their disposal. So, even in the winter months, the kids have access to a great area to run, play sports, ‘drive’ cars, ride bikes and burn energy,” Ziesemer said.
The aftercare program is also an advantage for parents and children, she said. The school does not require a regular commitment, and it gives “parents the option to leave their children until 6 p.m. on an as needed basis.”   
“It is extremely reasonably priced,” she continued. “It is a scheduled extension of their day that includes eating lunch, art projects, movies and more playing. They love it.
“I am a stay at home Mom, and all four of my kids beg me to stay at school longer,” Ziesemer said.
Playing and learning are the blend that parents like Feinberg like the most. She has 4- and 5- year-old sons.
“I’m surprised by all they have learned,” she said. “They love it! The ambience is very nice and friendly.”
St. Patrick in St. Charles is the only parish with two church buildings and two school campuses in the Diocese of Rockford. Between the two schools there are 655 students enrolled, according to the diocesan Education Office. 
“We were started by the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco and our first director, Sister Isabel Garza, set the high standards that we still maintain,”  said Day of the preschool’s history.
Initially, 43 families enrolled. 
“I was the original (teacher for) 3-year-olds and we had one  teacher (of 4-year-olds) who is still with us and is now my assistant director as well,” said Day.
All of the classes are regulated by the Illinois State Standards for Preschools. Lesson plans comply with the norms of the state, and religious education standards from the diocese. 
“Most of our children continue to the main (campus) so we prepare them for the rigors of a high-quality Catholic education,” she said.
The parents notice the growth of their children in the three-year “developmental history” that “starts in our classes (for 2-year-olds) and travels with the child through the next years of preschool.” 
The school balances, she added, “The fact that these are very young children who really haven’t been in the world very long with what they need to succeed in the next level of their educational journey. We do use a portfolio as our assessment tool.”
Science, Technology, Engineer and Math — STEM — programming was introduced this year.
Through the STEM lab, children can discover how different things work. They can build and “figure out answers. It’s a hands-on learning experience, and we are so excited to have it in our building.” she said.
“The schedules are very convenient for our family,” said Ziesemer. She said the school asks parents every year about their needs for care hours and days.
“I think I can speak for the community when I say that this is what works best for us,” Ziesemer said.