WINSLOW — St. John Regional Catholic School is set to expand in the next two years, adding two middle school grades to become a kindergarten-through-eighth grade grammar school.

Teachers and parents hope the expansion will spark enthusiasm for the school’s mission and position it for future growth.

“This is the future of our parish,” St. John Principal Bonnie McGann said Friday. “If we don’t have Catholic schools, we won’t have future Catholics.”

The school, at 15 South Garand St., has about 74 students in kindergarten through sixth grade and another 36 children in preschool and pre-kindergarten programs. Starting at the beginning of the 2015 school year, it will offer a seventh grade, and start an eighth grade by 2016.

While adding new grades has been discussed in the five years since St. John brought in sixth grade several years ago, parents, school officials and parish leaders set to work making it reality last year, putting together a feasibility study that addressed issues like enrollment projections, tuition and fundraising.

Bishop Robert P. Deeley, of the Diocese of Portland, earlier this week accepted a recommendation from the diocesan pastoral council, finance council and school board to approve the expansion.

“It is a blessing that children in Winslow, Waterville and beyond now have the opportunity to spend two additional, formative years in a school focused on spiritual growth, academic success and community,” Deeley said in a statement Friday.

McGann hopes to start next year with 89 students in kindergarten through seventh grade and grow from there, possibly raising the school’s enrollment to 170-200 students in the next five years.

Adding more grades builds on the expanded programming the school has unveiled in the last few years, including a fledgling school band and new extracurricular activities. Last year, St. John students competed in the international Odyssey of the Mind competition and a student won first place in the national Daughters of the American Revolution Essay contest.

“Our purpose is not to increase enrollment, our purpose is the end product,” McGann said.

St. Johns was established in 1926 by the Rev. John W. Frawley, and has largely been in the same neighborhood of Winslow for the last 87 years. It was a full kindergarten through eighth grade school with several hundred students until at least the 1960s, according to McGann.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

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