PANAMA CITY Fla. (WMBB) — After Hurricane Michael destroyed the campus of St. Johns Catholic School, they had to find a temporary home. But now close to two years later, the students and staff are back to their original campus ready for a fresh start as St. John’s Catholic Academy.
Even through the destruction, the students and staff never lost their faith. So when they returned home for the 2020 school year Reverend Kevin McQuone said it was an uplifting feeling.
“The students who were here before were like wow as they came in the new rooms and then we got some new students who arrived as we were displaced and they had never seen the campus before,” said McQuone. “Now we have a home and you just saw that sense of home when they arrived.”
McQuone said it was encouraging to see the changes the school made after having to rebuild. He said they are integrating aspects of social media into the curriculum and connecting it to their faith.
“We are bringing our school up to the 21st century in so many ways – in our curriculum as well as in our facilities,” said McQuone.
St. John’s only has 134 students. One of the major changes to the school is adding in a preschool program. Director of the Preschool Lisa Brooks said adding this component adds a larger sense of community within the school.
“In preschool we are setting the foundation,” said Brooks. “We are getting those kids ready to go to the next step”
“The staff here at St. John’s Catholic Academy said that having students preschool through eighth grade allows older students to become role models. This creates a family which is coming at a time when students and staff need it most.
Director of School Operations Tiffani Hinds said when families join the school, they see the love and the kindness all around the school.
“Everybody knows everybody,” said Hinds. “That’s one of the good things about being a small school. The eighth graders know the kindergarteners, the second graders know the sixth graders, all the teachers know every student in here.”
The staff said they believe their emphasis on faith will help the students realize that tough times will not be as hard with a family like this by their side.