People standing in front of a pavilion
People gather at Saint Edward School for a meet and greet ahead of the year on Aug. 17, 2023. The school celebrates its 70th year this year.

ASHLAND — Rain didn’t stop the excitement for parents, students and teachers alike at Saint Edward School on Thursday night, as it hosted a meet-and-greet for the start of its 70th year.

People gathered in the school’s new outdoor pavilion. That project finished over the summer, according to Suellen Valentine, the principal.

Melanie Hokes (left) hands out signs and information packets to parents at a meet and greet for Saint Edward School on Aug. 17, 2023.

Teachers greeted their new students on Thursday night. Valentine handed out popcorn and popsicles to students. Some, like Sara Paddags, handed out welcome cards and gifts. 

Paddags teaches third grade at Saint Edward School, and said she’s excited for the year to start. She gave students who would be in her class bracelets and cards. Paddags said her own children helped her make them. 

Melanie Hokes, the school secretary, also handed out information packets and yard signs to parents at Thursday’s meet and greet. 

“I love seeing how tall they’ve gotten and how much they’ve grown,” Hokes said. 

“It just feels so good to have kids back in the building,” Paddags said.

Pavilion project

The pavilion will serve as an outdoor classroom this year, Valentine said. It stands where the old church used to be. 

Valentine said they used the copper from the old church for the top of the pavilion. Copper from the old church makes up the cupola and a cross that sits on top of the pavilion. 

Sara Paddags hands out cards and bracelets to her new students at a Saint Edward School meet and greet on Aug. 17, 2023.

Paddags, for one, plans to use the pavilion for classes this year. She said she regularly brings students outside for reading activities, but there hasn’t been a good space for teaching lessons outside.

With picnic tables and space in the pavilion for students to sit, she said she’s excited to put it to use. Teachers at the school can use it whenever it’s open, Paddags said.

“The kids love fresh air and being outdoors,” Paddags said. 

Ava Wires will be a fifth grader at Saint Edward School this year. She said her favorite subject in school was “recess,” and she’s excited to come back and see her friends. 

Her mom, Brianne Wires, said the outdoor pavilion was beautiful. 

“I can see this being her new hangout at her favorite subject — recess,” she joked.

What else can families look forward to this year?

Suellen Valentine (left) gives a student a popsicle at a Saint Edward School meet and greet on Aug. 17, 2023. Valentine is the principal at the school and looks forward to seeing the students return next week.

Saint Edward School’s families can expect to see two new teachers at the school this year, too. Valentine said new teachers will fill a full-time fifth grade position and a part-time fourth grade one. Both new teachers previously served as substitutes for Saint Edward School.

The school is still looking to hire a part-time Spanish teacher and someone to help with its after-care. 

Sixth through eighth graders will continue working with drones in the classroom this year, while fifth graders will have a chance to work with 3-D printers, Valentine said. 

Valentine added that Saint Edward School hopes to host more activities for families this year, with a goal of building a stronger community. 

“I’m just very much looking forward to seeing the students,” Valentine said. “They bring a lot of joy.” 

Saint Edward School officially starts on Aug. 23.

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Ashland Source's Report for America corps member. She covers education and workforce development, among other things, for Ashland Source. Thomas comes to Ashland Source from Montana, where she graduated...