LAFAYETTE — Lafayette’s only independent Catholic school has a new name and a new campus.
John Paul the Great Academy began in 2007 as John Paul II Academy in a former restaurant in Carencro.
Today, the school sits sprawled on 39 acres in a building once used by the De La Salle Christian Brothers to educate future priests and religious.
The move to the new campus and its setting amid oak trees, a pond and acres of green help remind students of God’s presence, said students.
“This campus completes the idea of classical education,” said Brandon Champagne, a senior. “God’s creation is right here. You walk outside and you’re inspired.”
Though the move allows for expansion — a capital campaign is under way — the school is committed to providing classical education and to small class sizes, said Kevin Roberts, school president and headmaster.
This year’s enrollment is at 145 students in grades Pre-K3-12 and another 30 are enrolled in its home school program, Roberts said.
Enrollment is estimated at about 190 next year, Roberts said.
While the school’s educational model can be achieved with enrollment of up to 400 students, there’s no rush to grow too quickly, Roberts said.
Through an agreement with the De La Salle Christian Brothers, the school occupies 39 of the 41 acres on the Carmel Drive property and a small community of retired brothers remain on the site.
Students began class on the new campus on Aug. 29 — two weeks later than originally planned.
Necessary upgrades to water and utilities for the property delayed the start, but community support from family volunteers and Fenstermaker & Associates expedited the work, said Ryan Verret, the school’s director of advancement.
“We were able to do something that would have taken months in weeks,” he said. “We had so many volunteers. We had families spend their vacation working out here instead of going to Disney World.”
John Paul the Great is an independent Catholic school, meaning it has the approval of the bishop, but is not affiliated with any church parish.
The school is committed to rigorous academics and to teaching the faith, Roberts said.
A new addition to the school is the presence of a religious order of women, the Preachers of Christ and Mary. The order’s founder, Mother Maria Amador, and three novices reside on the campus. Amador teaches Spanish and the women are helping prepare students for future missionary work in Colombia, where the order’s mother house is located. The order also has a presence in New York, and this is its first affiliation with a school, Amador said.
“We are together for the same goal,” Amador said. “We want to form apostles of the faith. It’s a blessing to be a part of this dream.”
The school now also houses a perpetual adoration chapel. Another religious community, the Community of Jesus Crucified relocated the chapel to the school, Verret said.
“We’re the only Catholic school in the United States that has a perpetual adoration chapel in it,” he said.
“This is a very different school from other places I’ve been,” said Alyse Spiehler, 16 and a junior. A part of a missionary family, she was home-schooled the past two years and has lived abroad.