John Shearer, Shopper News correspondent-Shopper News Article 8/13/2018
The new Sacred Heart Cathedral has given a new look to Northshore Drive in Bearden, but the adjoining Sacred Heart Cathedral School has its own new pillar for learning as well.
In contrast to the giant worship facility that opened in March, however, the school’s new development is subtle in appearance, as it is simply a classroom format change. But school officials hope it is also significant, at least educationally, in impacting lives.
Effective with the beginning of classes last week at the Catholic school, students in grades 4 and 5 no longer have most of their classroom time under one teacher.
While one instructor will still focus on such core subjects as math and language arts, other teachers will separately teach these same students such classes as religion, social studies, and science.
“We thought we could focus on the areas where teachers are passionate, and reach kids’ academic needs better if we could compartmentalize,” said principal Daniel Breen.
The teachers involved include Kathleen Karnes, Rachael Norris, Kelly Rexrode, Sister Anne Miriam Crouche, Rebecca Baker and Michael Torregiano.
Breen said the school did research into other schools with strong educational reputations and found such a format was used, so they have decided to implement the plan at SHCS.
He thinks it should be a positive change not only for students but also for teachers.
“We want to try to allow teachers to focus on the areas where they are passionate, and focus on their professional development and developing students,” he said. “This is not an institution that just teaches, but one that learns all the time, too.”
The school does have a few new tangible features that have come with the opening of the cathedral and the expansion of the overall campus.
Breen said the school has a new adoration chapel, which should provide a more intimate space for spiritually related activities for students.
Also, the former main worship space is being converted into a room called Cathedral Hall, and students will also be able to use it for other activities.
“Cathedral Hall is a place where the school can host larger events like a school play,” he said.
“Our understanding of man is through the lens of God, and we work every day to educate the whole child,” said Breen, adding that the school theme is “to encourage one another and build each other up,” based on 1 Thessalonians.
He added that the school has seen its enrollment rise slightly since last year, with about 495 students in grades K-8 attending the school this year.
Breen, who received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard, is in his fourth year as the SHCS principal. With more than 25 years in education, he loves the work, he added.
Sacred Heart Cathedral School – which was first called Sacred Heart School before the formation of the Knoxville diocese in 1988 — opened in 1956 with 132 students led by two Sisters of Mercy and three lay teachers.
According to some history at the school’s website, the school and church had come about due to a need for a third parish in Knoxville to accommodate the growing Catholic population.
The Northshore Drive area was chosen due to the accessibility of public utilities, and six acres of the old William Towle farm was purchased in 1953 for $25,000.
Further additions were made in 1986 and 1993, and in 1995, a pavilion was built behind the school. A number of renovations have also been made over the years.
The school today boasts of being the only school in the country connected to a new cathedral, officials say.