St. John School History
The history of St. John's School is co-extensive with the history of the parish, with, unfortunately, several interruptions. Almost nothing is known about the earliest history of the school, except that the first resident pastor, Father Ehrenberger, did open a school when he came in 1869. We do not know how many children were enrolled, who the teacher was, nor even how long the school remained in existence.
It is recorded that when Father Matousek came to Rock Creek in 1880, he reopened the school with an enrollment of about 40 children. Among the teachers during these years are listed the names of Mr. Wenceslaus Svehla (later to become Father Svehla, the only son of St. John's Parish ordained to the priesthood) and Mr. Joseph Rustige, a notary public who also served as the postmaster. Classes were held in the original school, a log building.
This building, with the passing of the years, became unusable. When Father Kutz was appointed to St. John's in 1908, he and the parishioners saw the need of a new school building, and began its erection immediately. The work of building was done by the parishioners, and the new school was opened in the fall of that year, 1909. Father Kutz was able to secure the services of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood, from O'Fallon, Mo., and three Sisters came to staff the school in that year - two as teachers and one as a housekeeper.
As the size of the parish declined, so, too, did the parish school. The Sisters were withdrawn from St. John's in 1920, and lay teachers were engaged to keep the school operating. This, however, proved to be short-lived, and the school was closed, probably in 1921. Since the old church building was now in a condition which indicated that repairs would be unwise, the decision was made to tear it down, and move the church into the building long used for the school.
Following the end of World War II, when the parish began to show signs of a re-birth, the parishioners recognized the need for a parish school. Circumstances indicated that it would be unwise to open a school at the location of the present parish, since plans were already being made to relocate the parish. Consequently, arrangements were made to transport the children to St. Anthony's School in High Ridge, staffed by the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood.
When the relocation of the parish to its present site on Highway 21 was made certain, plans were made for the erection of a new school. The site was prepared, and ground for the new school was broken. Contracts for the construction were let, totaling $213,727.00, exclusive of furnishings. Construction was begun immediately, and the cornerstone of the new school was laid on April 21, 1956.
The new school was to be staffed by the Sisters of Divine Providence, and an original staff of Sisters Lucy, the principal, Leonard Marie and Gabriella was assigned for the school year of 1957-58. The first registration was held on September 8, and 134 pupils enrolled for the opening of the school. Construction delays prohibited the opening at the time planned. The new St. John's School was opened on October 1, 1957, with a first day enrollment of 142 pupils, taught by the three Sisters. The official dedication and blessing of the school were held on Sunday October 20, with the Archbishop of St. Louis, the Most Reverend Joseph E. Ritter, blessing the school and administering the Sacrament of Confirmation to 51 children.
In the intervening years, the school has grown steadily. A fourth classroom was opened in 1960, a fifth in 1961, and another one in 1963, still one more in 1965, and the eight room in 1966. The present enrollment, in our centennial year, is 323. The school is presently staffed by five Sisters and three lay teachers: Sister M. Dorothy is the principal, and the rest of the faculty consists of Sisters Celine, Gabriella, Helen Jean and Mary Alphonse, Mrs. Arayna Essmueller, Miss Susan Sharp and Miss Nancy Rustige.
At a parish meeting in June, 1967, the members of St. John's voted to establish a Parish Board of Education, which would assume the administrative and policy-making responsibilities of the school. It was agreed that the board would be made up of six elected members, chosen at an open meeting during June of each year, and serving in rotating terms, with two new members elected each year. In addition, the pastor of the parish and the principal of the school would be "ex officio" members of the Board of Education. During this centennial year, the Board is made up of the following members: Richard W. Roberts, the president; Vincent Kovarik, the vice-president; Mrs. Rosemary Stroup, the secretary; Arthur Nahlik, Milton Schwartz and Louis Arnold, members; and Sister M. Dorothy and Father Byrne, the "ex officio" members.
Besides the teaching and administrative staff, others are necessary for the operation of a school. Three parish ladies, Mrs. Frances Nahlik, Mrs. Ann Bates and Mrs. Aurelia Ehlers, operate the school lunch room, and provide tasty, hot meals for the children daily. Equally important are the people who provide for the transportation of the children and the custodial work in the school. These tasks are well provided by Mr. and Mrs. Earl Collins and Mr. John Halbeck.
Although the above names constitute the permanent staff of the school, special tribute should be paid to the number of parishioners who volunteer their services, in many ways, to provide for the needs of our children. Particular mention should be made of the ladies who give so much of their time to staff the school library, during the summer vacation period as well as during the school year.
Note - The above was taken from the Centennial booklet published in 1969.
Throughout the decades of the seventies and eighties, the school was vibrant with enrollment levels between 150-200 students. However, around 1995, school attendance began to decline for a variety of factors. When Fr. C. Robert Manning was appointed Pastor in 2004, day school attendance had dropped to a level of around 115 and the school was staffed exclusively by lay teachers (the last of the Sisters, the Sisters of Divine Providence, left back in the late eighties). One of the first issues Fr. Manning had to deal with after being appointed paastor was the need to borrow $75,000 to meet payroll from the building fund to support the school. As a result, he called for a Town Hall Meeting in early 2005 to discuss the financial situation and presented the funding situation at that time.
Unfortunately, student enrollment continued to decline to a level of 85 in 2007 and the financial burden on the Parish was too great to operate a school independently. As a result, the decision was made that with the beginning with the school year in 2007, St. John's School would merge with Holy Child School in Arnold in order to continue to provide a quality Catholic education to the Parish's youth.