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St. Jerome's School celebrates 100 years of faith and education in Cleveland's Collinwood neighborhood

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Posted at 5:51 PM, Jan 27, 2023

CLEVELAND — A Cleveland catholic school that offers pre-K through eighth-grade education is celebrating a milestone: 100 years.

It was the 1922-23 school year. The world looked a lot different than it does now but one thing stands as it did all of those years ago: St. Jerome’s Catholic School at 15000 Lake Shore Boulevard.

Susan Coan is the principal of the school. She has been principal for 14 years but has worked at the school for 45 years.

“This is the original building that was built well, 100 years ago,” she said. “I want to cry all the time when I think about it because we are able to continue the tradition of St. Jerome school.”

The halls have continued to echo with the sounds of children, church and curriculum.

“It’s an amazing achievement. It takes a lot of hard work to get there, but we have a strong sense of community and these parents, this is what they want instilled in their kids,” said Lyndsey Byrne, the assistant principal.

Coan said their sense of community that Byrne touched on is a cornerstone of the school’s environment.

“I tried to make it more of a home for these children. They come here, they feel relaxed, they do their work and they feel safe when they’re in our building,” she said. “Our parents know they can send our children here and not worry about them for the 6 hours they’re in our care.”

It is the last standing catholic school in the Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland.

“It’s a hard thing to achieve, nowadays, because a lot of schools are closing or their enrollment is declining,” said Katie Coan, the dean of discipline for the school.

Susan Biggs is the assistant superintendent for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. She said enrollment, overall, was down pre-pandemic.

“We don't want to see schools closing in any of our neighborhoods, especially our neighbors that need those resources that schools are providing,” she said. “It was disheartening when you look at the data and the data showing families are leaving, families are leaving the church, they're leaving our schools.”

But the earlier return to in-person learning, compared to some of the other schools in the area, seemed to increase enrollment numbers.

“It really did pay off because parents were looking for that in-person contact with students in the buildings and many of them worked and needed their kids in school,” she said. “Especially in the preschool area we've seen a very large, significant increase and we've seen it in our elementary and high schools, too.”

As for St. Jerome’s, enrollment continues to increase.

“We have about 230 children and when I first got the principal job we only had 158,” Coan said.

They’re attracting new students to catholic education, like 10-year-old Zion Booker.

“My mom just wanted me to get better in school,” he said. “It’s working really well and the staff are really nice.”

And keeping students through 8th grade, like 13-year old Ashanti Tate.

“I feel like I’ve gotten better academically and the teachers have helped me grow and I will take all of the stuff that they taught me to high school with me,” she said. Tate said she will be going to a catholic high school.

Biggs said their success is a testament to their teachings.

“To have a situation presented to us where we can say there is growth in Catholic education, it means the world to us,” she said. “Catholic education is very strong in Cleveland, Ohio and we're hoping to see it continue to grow.”

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