St. John’s Catholic School – A History
Catholic education in Hot Springs dates back to 1880 with the Sisters of Mercy opening St. Mary’s Academy, a boarding school for girls and a day coeducational high school and grade school. St. John’s opened its school shortly after in 1908, under the guidance and support of a Benedictine priest, Father John E. Weibel, and two Olivetan Benedictine Sisters. At that time there were eight grades, two teachers, and sixteen pupils attending St. John’s School. In 1921, Monsignor William Carroll, pastor of both parishes, directed that both schools merge and requested that the Sisters of Mercy take over the leadership and guidance of St. John’s School. Class sizes and attendance continued to grow, requiring many transformations and building projects to be organized to provide for the educational needs of its Catholic and other than Catholic community.
During the mid 1960’s grades seven and eight were dropped because of a lack of Sisters to teach the students and because of a drop in enrollment. During these years, St. John’s School along with many other Catholic schools experienced a shift in its teaching staff from Religious Sisters to lay teachers. St. John’s School is very fortunate today to still have the benefits and blessings of three Sisters of Mercy on its staff–Sister Noeline Banks, RSM, Sister Cheryl Quave, RSM and Sister Carol Ann Corley, RSM.
The 1980’s and 1990’s, under the direction of Father Ralph Bauer, brought about additional renovations and technological advances to the school. The convent building was converted into additional office space and a new building project was underway, housing our present day cafeteria and the gym along with a new library, art and music room and additional classrooms
In September of l987 the school began its first Pre-Kindergarten program with one teacher and 13 students. As the student population continued to increase, the need for more space became once again apparent. In the fall of 1996, the school board looked at expanding to the seventh and eighth grades. With the support of the parish, under the guidance of Father James West, the seventh grade was reestablished in the fall of 1998 and the eighth grade became part of the school in the fall of 1999. Building expansions of the 1990 gym building included additional classroom space to accommodate the junior high level students and the addition of a youth room. The Jackson Science Lab was also included with this expansion which was completed in time for its first 8th grade graduating class of 2000 in over thirty years. The Callahan Computer Lab offers wireless internet access throughout the school continues to evolve and is updated to respond to the changing needs of global internet technology. In keeping up with the technology demands of the day, all but one classroom is equipped with a Smart Board for more interactive learning for the students.
Today, St. John’s School, still located at 583 West Grand Avenue in Hot Springs, continues to offer coeducational classes for students in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth grade with the support of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and its Catholic community—St. Mary’s Church downtown Hot Springs and Sacred Heart Church in Hot Springs Village.
St. John’s School offers a rigorous academic program, adhering to the curriculum guidelines established by the Catholic Schools of Arkansas – Diocese of Little Rock. St. John’s also offers Religious studies, Spanish, Art, Computer Science, Library, Music, Environmental Studies and Physical Education. Athletic participation includes team sports through the Little Rock Parochial League, at the Boys and Girls Club and other venues. Students are also exposed to fine arts activities and are provided opportunities to participate in play performances, academic bowls, spelling competition, science fairs and violin lessons. They also share their musical talents at church and in the community.
St John’s Catholic school is accredited by the Arkansas Nonpublic School Accrediting Association (ANSAA). In addition to ANSAA, St. John’s school and its staff are members of the National Catholic Education Association as well as the Mercy Elementary Education Network.
Today, the SJS staff includes ten full-time teachers, five part-time teachers, two priests who teach in the school, one Assistant Principal and the Principal. May God continue to support our educational ministry as St. John’s School embraces its 105th year of Catholic Education here in Hot Springs.