Back to school season brings double dose of ‘firsts’ for Our Lady of the Lake

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Fr. Chauncey Winkler, pastor, welcomes students and their families to the first day of school Aug. 6. It marked the first time the school expanded beyond its long-established preschool and kindergarten. The goal is to add one grade per year until eighth-grade. (courtesy photo)

What has been in prayer for years and in planning for two, is amid its first week of reality.

The majority of the kindergartners who “graduated” from Our Lady of the Lake in May returned as the school’s first class of first-graders Aug. 6. Better yet, they can remain on grounds for their foreseeable elementary years. Transfer students are welcome too, of course.

Our Lady of the Lake, which has held a preschool for 16 years and a kindergarten for eight, is slowly transforming into a PS-8 school. Campus leaders plan to add one grade level each year until the current first-graders enter eighth grade.

“They’ve been asking Fr. Chauncey [Winkler] for a while, ‘Why aren’t we adding grades?’” Fatima Mu, Our Lady of the Lake’s lead teacher and first-grade teacher told The Catholic Sun during a lunch break at a retreat for all 110 teachers new to the Diocese of Phoenix.

Fr. Winkler, the pastor, prayed about it and formed an expansion committee two years ago. Some of their findings revealed the majority were in favor of expanding and willing to support it financially, practically or both. Parishioner donations fully furnished the new first-grade classroom in the Holy Family Center. Each classroom was nearing capacity enrollment at press time.

Our Lady of the Lake Catholic School

1975 Daytona Drive, Lake Havasu City

(928) 855-2685

ourladylhc.net/school-mission

Mu met with most first-grade parents before school began. She learned most didn’t want to lose the wholesome educational foundation established in preschool and kindergarten. Even a non-Catholic family has confidence in seeing their child grow with the school. Mu recalled one dad and daughter.

“He knows something very, very awesome has happened because she has led them to pray before meals, to pray for others,” Mu said. She went on to say that the dad wouldn’t have any concerns if one day his daughter converted to Catholicism.

Mu has no doubt other students and their family members will become stronger Catholics as a result of the school’s expansion. Our Lady of the Lake is incorporating classical Catholic curriculum. That means kindergarteners will study ancient civilization. First-graders will learn about ancient Rome followed by Greece in second grade. It’s an approach that consistently came up in search results for schools that offered a strong Catholic identity, rigorous curriculum and faithfulness to the Church’s Magisterium.

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“My heart just melted. I was attracted to it. I’m just really convinced that as a school, we’ll be the most fruitful and vibrant in educating our kids because it’s rooted in history. It’s recognizing the dignity of the human person at all levels,” Mu said. “It will allow educators to explore, wonder. It will change who we are.”

Mu hopes adding a devotion to Our Lady of Schools will further enhance the Catholic identity. It’s a devotion she recently discovered that’s rooted in Quebec and the Congregation de Notre-Dame.

Fr. Winkler is on the same page. His parish is the only Catholic one in the area and provides a place to form children and their parents according to a Catholic understanding of the human being. “We want to focus on that happy Catholic identity and prepare them to live their Catholic faith joyfully and courageously in the midst of the world,” Fr. Winkler said.