Veronica Esparza, whose son attended public school because the family could not fit a drive to central Phoenix into their schedule, will now be able to send her daughter, Thalia, 14, to the new St. John Paul II Catholic High School for her freshman year after attending elementary school at their home parish of St. John Vianney in Goodyear.
By the Numbers
Students enrolled for this school year
Total faculty and staff for this school year
School capacity, 125 for each class
Potential for student capacity growth in the future, once all four phases are complete
Size of the school in square feet
Cost of tuition
“We were pretty excited,” Esparza said when she and her husband, David, learned of plans for St. John Paul II. “We wanted her to continue her Catholic education. It’s given her the values and puts God first. I think a lot of issues we have in the world are because we try to remove God from everything.”
Thalia is looking forward to the experience.
“Most of my friends are going. It’s cool that we can all go to a Catholic school. We all live pretty close, and it’s nice to know I can still continue my friendships.”
The far West Valley’s first Catholic high school reflects more than a milestone in Catholic education in the Valley. St. John Paul II will bring a local Catholic college preparatory to thousands of families in one of the fastest-growing areas of the country now lacking that opportunity.
It will offer a faith-based curriculum and an educational approach successfully carried out in other parts of the country by the Dominican Sisters of Saint Cecilia — an order of nuns from Nashville, Tennessee, recognized for their education charism. And, it will mean the world to parents whose desire to have their children learn in that atmosphere has been challenged by the need to transport their youngsters to Catholic classrooms in other parts of the Valley. But, perhaps most significantly, the school will open the door of Catholic education to some students and families for the first time.
Since 2000, there has been a 61 percent rise in the West Valley’s Hispanic population, and a 50 percent increase is projected in school-age children by 2050. The area’s growth rate overall is forecast at twice that of Maricopa County. Goodyear, Buckeye and Peoria are expected to see the fastest expansion by 2020.
St. John Paul II Catholic High School
3120 N. 137th Ave., Avondale
Families in the far West Valley will have access to affordable Catholic education to form students academically, spiritually and physically.
“People are very happy. I have met many people at many parishes who are thrilled the diocese is opening a new school in this part of the Valley,” said principal Sr. Mary Jordan Hoover, OP. “These people have rejoiced (because) a Catholic school is great for the diocese and the Church.”
When St. John Paul II began classes for the first time Aug. 13, it had a student body of about 150 — sophomores and freshmen only. It will add one grade level in each of the next two years, making this fall’s sophomores the first graduates. Sr. Mary Jordan estimates the initial student body will include 40 percent of children from public schools.
“That shows Catholic schools are needed in the West Valley,” she said.
Christine Crawley is one of those whose children will come from a public school. The Litchfield Park resident and parishioner of St. Thomas Aquinas in Avondale and her husband will send their son, Patrick, 15, for his sophomore year after he attended a public high school in nearby Goodyear as a freshman. Already preparing for soccer with St. John Paul’s team, Patrick is interested in a career in video and animation. His parents felt the transition from the 2,500-student public school to St. John Paul II and its Catholic curriculum would enhance their son’s education.
Crawley is particularly impressed with St. John Paul II’s innovative system of organizing students on campus into subgroups, or “houses.” Already in place at Seton Catholic Preparatory in Chandler, the system arranges lockers by “student households” instead of grade levels or specific activities. Students remain in a “house” for all four years.
“I love the idea. That is one of the points that grabbed our attention,” Crawley said.
Matthew Gonzales, director of admissions and marketing, said the school will draw from about 20 parishes and 40 schools in the far West Valley.
Norma Partida, also from St. Thomas Aquinas, whose daughter Alexa, 13, will be a freshman, said not just the immediate communities around the new school will benefit.
“The need is there because of population; churches are getting new families. It’s a good location. You have 59th Avenue-west — that whole area has the potential of coming,” Partida said. “You’re not just getting kids from Catholic school, but kids who never thought they’d have an opportunity for a Catholic education.”