Sunny skies and colorful decorations matched the bright smiles of the students enrolled at Christian Faith Academy and St. John School at the start of a new school year Wednesday.
This is the 11th year for Christian Faith Academy, 4322 Park Ave., the former First Congregational Church in downtown Ashtabula.
“We have grown and we are excited about that,” said Janelle Anderson, lead teacher. "We are still open for enrollment; we welcome new students.”
In Saybrook Township, students at St. John School arrived on time and ready to learn, Principal Scott Plescia said.
"It was a great day," he said. "We had a split day, with K-6 in the morning and high school students in the afternoon. We ended the day with a nice prayer service."
The school is a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade Catholic school serving the Diocese of Youngstown.
The private Catholic school has grown since moving seven years ago from Station Avenue in Ashtabula to the former Saybrook Elementary School at 7911 Depot Road. The pre-K program is an all-day program with an option of mornings only.
Christian Faith Academy is a pre-K through 10th-grade Christian school with a traditional classroom setting. It is open to families of all denominations. In addition to academics, the school offers enrichment classes in creative writing, drama, art, music and physical education by partnering with the Ashtabula Arts Center and the Ashtabula County YMCA.
“Our mission is to serve as an extension of the Christian home and local church,” Anderson said. “This year, we are focusing on project-based learning. The students will take all the skills they've learned in school to a project within the community."
Last year, 30 students were enrolled at the school. This year, there are 32 and there's a new administrator, Deana Cole.
In the past five years, the building has received a new roof, as well as a picnic pavilion by the playground. Three years ago, the school purchased laptop computers for a technology center for students, thanks to a $5,000 private grant. The pavilion was the result of a $7,500 private grant. A local resident provided the materials and put on the new roof.
St. John also has seen improvements in the past five years. In 2014, an anonymous benefactor donated $1 million for the construction of a new gymnasium.
Since then, several other donations have allowed St. John to add new classrooms and six tennis courts.
Enrollment on Wednesday totaled 435 students in grades pre-K through 12. That's an increase of eight from last year, Plescia said.