ELLINWOOD— In celebration of Catholic Schools Week, St. Joseph Catholic School in Ellinwood held a full week of activities. In addition, the school is celebrating 125 years of education.
At the Chamber of Commerce coffee on Thursday, Lead Teacher Marlene Clayton thanked the community for its support for the last 125 years. "Without community support, it would not be possible," she said.
She also thanked the public schools for their cooperation. St. Joseph School uses the public school buses, participates in seventh and eighth grade sports, and provides music education.
Clayton also mentioned the 2009 Governor’s Award the school received.
Thanking the teachers and staff, she said, "Ellinwood has a great school system."
Five eighth graders presented a history of the school. In addition, three students presented the new Catholic Bishop with a mitre at the celebration in Dodge City last week.
A brief history
In the 1870s, with the Homestead Act and the development of the railroad, immigrants came from southern Germany to Ellinwood, according to research done by Sisters Noella Blick and Francella Bahr. The Catholics organized a parish and opened the first Catholic School in 1885. The schoolmasters were from Germany and conducted lessons in German.
The first instructor was August Smithausen. Classes were discontinued in 1890 when Smithausen left the area. He returned in 1893, and the school opened once again averaging between 30 and 60 students.
In 1894, summer school classes 50 cents per month for German speaking reading and writing on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. By 1903, teaching responsibilities were transferred to the Dominican Sisters from Great Bend.
In 1911, Father Werner Emmerick asked the Sister Adorers of the Blood of Christ from Wichita to staff the school. They continue to this day.
The current St. Joseph School building was built in 1926 and has undergone many changes such as adding a computer room, although the basic structure remains the same.
From its beginning classes have been taught for first through eighth graders. In 1937, kindergarten was added, but was discontinued in 1957 due to a lack of space. School enrollment was at an all-time high of 230 students. It was added back in 1982.
The public and Catholic Schools in Ellinwood have always cooperated, and when St. Joes began offering a hot lunch program in 1945, the high school students came to the school for lunch. In 1955, a hot lunch program was begun in the public school.
There are 72 students today. Five full-time teachers, three part-time teachers, one para and a principal teach at the school.