Infant of Prague Catholic School, located in Jacksonville, NC, has been providing a high quality Catholic education for kindergarten through 8th grade students in the Jacksonville area since the early 1950s. With the continued growth of the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps and surrounding coastal regions, the school has experienced a 95% increase in student enrollment in the last decade.
While IOPCS has expanded in recent years to provide multiple classrooms for a number of grade levels, the existing school building is at maximum capacity. Additionally, there is a high interest for Catholic education beyond the 8th grade level in the area.
“Our parish community is vibrant,” said IOPCS principal Jennifer Feldhaus. “All of our ministry areas, not just the school but also our youth programs and our thrift store and outreach resource center, are growing. We were simply no longer able to meet the growing demand to access a quality, Catholic education.”
Thanks to the generosity and strong desire to support Catholic education of Infant of Prague parishioners, the parish recently made a cash purchase of an existing school building and chapel just a half a mile from its current school campus.
“Across the diocese, we are always looking to meet local Catholic education needs,” said Diocese of Raleigh school superintendent Lytia Reese. “While the demand in the Jacksonville area is not unique, we are fortunate to have a growth ‘problem’ in a number of areas in our diocese. The parish response, however, was exceptional. The Infant of Prague community truly invested in their parish and school’s future with this effort.”
Renovation work will be required to transition the building to traditional classrooms, bring those classrooms and common areas up to modern building codes, and update the overall facilities. Because the building was not used as a traditional school but as a Sunday school facility, the property will require a change-of-use designation with the city of Jacksonville.
“While the building will require significant work before it is ready to serve our growing school community, we’re fortunate that the building location and overall design is ideal for our needs,” said Infant of Prague business manager Jose Cabrera. “The city of Jacksonville has also been extremely helpful and cooperative throughout the entire process.”
The projected start time for the work will be October 2022, with a projected school opening in August 2023. In addition to expanding additional kindergarten through 8th grade classrooms, the building will allow for additional grade levels to be added for the parish to provide a full kindergarten through high school education for area students.
“We have been committed to providing a high quality spiritual and educational Catholic school experience and partnering with our parents,” said Feldhaus. “This expansion is truly an extension of that partnership, and we are grateful and very excited about what the future holds.”