Having just been built in 2010, Saint John Paul II Catholic Elementary School (from here on, just Saint John Paul II) is the newest school on our current list of the top-rated WCDSB elementary schools by a fair margin. It’s also one of the largest on our list, with a current student population of over 750, from Kindergarten to Grade 8.
The school’s name was originally Pope John Paul II, then Blessed John Paul II, and finally Saint John Paul II – quite a few name changes in eight years, but we’ll talk more about the man himself shortly. Saint John Paul II’s address is 75 Pebblecreek Drive, Kitchener, on the eastern edge of the city (there is a creek nearby, and the creek has its fair share of pebbles). Its phone number is (519) 742-7378.
Saint John Paul II’s team name is the Saint John Paul II Suns. They chose the Sun as their symbol for a variety of reasons; they say, for example, “The sun is the center of our universe, as God is the center of our faith and the Pope is a central figure in our Catholic Church” (SJPII). The school motto is “Living the Word,” and it relates to Pope John Paul II’s efforts to ‘live the Word’ in his lifetime.
Saint John Paul II is situated squarely within the eastern Kitchener Grand River South neighbourhood. Its boundaries extend to serve parts of several nearby neighbourhoods, including much of the Idlewood, Grand River North, and Centreville / Chicopee neighbourhoods (click the neighbourhoods to read more about them). The Stanley Park, too, stands nearby, but it is served primarily by St. Daniel Catholic Elementary School.
So, what’s the general scoop on this area? It was an area of rapid development over the past couple decades (hence quite a few new schools being built here, in both the WCDSB and the WRDSB – Saint John Paul II among them).
This eastern patch of Kitchener offers lush, beautiful natural areas (like the Stanley Park Conservation Area, and of course the Grand River itself, which serves as the area’s eastern border), as well as shopping and community opportunities (Stanley Park Mall, with its impressive Zehrs , and the Grand River Stanley Park Community Library are both here, among other locations). Oh, and there’s Chicopee itself.
Saint John Paul II is part of the St. Anthony Daniel Parish, which is located near the intersection of Ottawa Street North and River Road East and opened in 1966. St. Anthony Daniel (1601-1648) was a French-born Jesuit who spent over a decade living and teaching in New France (modern Quebec); he ultimately died in an effort to protect his church.
We must, however, speak of Saint John Paul II, whose name this school bears. John Paul II was born Karol Józef Wojtyła, on May 18th, 1920, in Poland. He began his time as Pope in 1978, choosing his Papal name Pope John Paul II as a tribute to his immediate predecessor, Pope John Paul I, whose 33 day papacy is among the shortest of all time. John Paul II’s papacy was distinct for a number of reasons.
He was the first (and still only) Polish Pope; he was the first non-Italian Pope in nearly half a millennium; and he travelled quite extensively, making such records as attracting the largest-ever Papal gathering in Manila (potentially 4 million people) and, during his trip to Syria, becoming the first Pope to visit and pray in a Muslim Mosque; and more. Pope John Paul II died in 2005, and his 32-year papacy became the second-longest in modern history. His canonization was confirmed by Pope Francis in 2014.
The Fraser Institute is a Canadian organization originally based in Vancouver. One of their most prominent initiatives is the School Report Cards, in which they use publically-available data to rank the academic performance of elementary and secondary schools in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. Their data comes from the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO)’s Grade 3 and Grade 6 Testing.
These tests grade students on Reading, Writing, and Mathematics; the Fraser Institute compiles average performances for each school, and takes Gender Gap, percentage of tests not written, and percentage of tests written below standard into account. They publish their findings annually.
Pope John Paul II’s current score (as of 2016/17, the latest available data) is 7.5/10, and it has been for two years running. They showed an impressive leap forward in performance between 2014 and 2016 (2015 did not have EQAO Testing). At present, their score places them as the 3rd most-highly ranked school in all of Kitchener (both WCDSB and WRDSB) – and it’s quite close to #2, with St. Teresa beating it by just 0.1. Incidentally, it is the #1, most-highly ranked school named after Pope John Paul II (there are 10 throughout Ontario).