BACK TO SCHOOL: New principal, big upgrades at St. Joseph

Big changes are afoot this fall at Amherst’s private St. Joseph School.

The Catholic school has a new principal in Amy Makruski after the departure of Karen Linn. She taught first grade for 10 years and the past five served as assistant principal.

“The parents know me, the kids know me. The transition has been a little smoother than if we had hired someone new,” Makruski said.

St. Joseph School will welcome four new teachers this year, including her first grade replacement.

There have also been big changes to the physical building.

This summer the school upgraded to fiber Internet, which has vastly increased speeds. St. Joseph is moving to a one-to-one model this fall, which means every student will have a digital device to use for classes — kids in kindergarten through fourth grade will each have an iPad and students in grades five to eight will get MacBooks.

Those devices will be needed to take the new Measures of Academic Progress test, or MAP, said Makruski. The assessment is adaptive and isn’t stuck within a grade band, meaning the more questions a student gets right, the harder the questions will become, so a fourth-grader might be able to show fifth grade proficiency.

Testing will be done in September, January, and May so teachers can use the scores to adjust their lessons throughout the year.

The St. Joseph School library got a full overhaul this summer with fresh paint, updated shelving, and new furniture.

“Our goal is to have lots of flexible seating in there, where students can use it in the library or teachers can pull it out,” Makruski said.

One of the parochial school’s aspirations for the school year is to become STEM-designated by the state of Ohio. A greater focus on science, technology, engineering, and math “will send the message that though we’re a small Catholic school, we are educating students in 21st century skills and thinking beyond these walls,” the principal said.

The first day of school is Wednesday, Aug. 23 and for the most part — there are some exceptions, such as spring break — St. Joseph School follows the public schools’ calendar.

Makruski said she’s ready to welcome students into the building.

“I want them to know they have a staff waiting for them that is very eager to accompany them on their journey through this school year. We’ve been waiting and waiting for this year to start,” she said.

“We are who we are. There are going to be some great advances this year, helping to motivate students. We want each student to reach their own maximum potential, whatever that might be.”

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.

By Jason Hawk

St. Joseph School

Principal: Amy Makruski

Start time: 7:30 a.m.

Release time: 2:15 p.m.

Number of students: 160

Grades: PK-8