One semester down, one to go for the first year of classes at Father McGivney Catholic High School in Maryville.
Nineteen students enrolled at the new school, which occupies one wing of St. John Neumann elementary. Long-term plans call for construction of a permanent building in Glen Carbon.
"It was a great beginning," said principal Mike Scholz. "This is my 40th year in education, and I couldn't be happier. The kids are doing exceptionally well. The goals we set for community service are right on track."
Only freshmen were admitted to McGivney in August. They will become sophomores next fall, making way for a second freshman class. All four grades should be in place by 2015.
The inaugural class includes Danielle Villhard, who transferred from St. Mary's elementary in Edwardsville. Her parents, Diane and Doug Villhard, led the grassroots effort to create a new school. Doug is board president.
"I was a little bit apprehensive and nervous at first," said Danielle, 14, of Glen Carbon. "But (the first semester) exceeded my expectations. I didn't think I would make friends so quickly and get to know people. But we're becoming like family."
McGivney's mascot is the Griffin, a creature from ancient Greek folklore with a lion's body and eagle's head and wings.
The school doesn't have any sports teams yet, but that didn't stop students from planning a homecoming with themed dress days, pep rally, bonfire, tailgate party and dance.
"We had planned to play a flag football game, but it rained so darn hard," the principal said. "We had a trivia contest instead."
Danielle serves as editor of the newly created yearbook committee. The school also has a recycling club called the Green Griffins that is building a peace garden outside, as well as a Math Squad and Spanish Club.
Danielle doesn't mind sharing a building with elementary students, although the two age groups cross paths only when McGivney students are headed to the chapel or cafeteria. They take their food back to a private lounge.
"It's really cool," Danielle said. "We get to see (the younger kids) in the hallway, and they always smile at us or give us high 5s. We've developed relationships with some of the eighth-graders and talked to them about coming to McGivney next year."
Danielle would like to see a drama program developed. Plans already are being made for a soccer team next year.
McGivney is carving its niche as one of the most technologically advanced schools in the metro-east. Classrooms are equipped with state-of-the-art media systems. Each student gets an iPad and a laptop.
"We will be using all e-books by next semester, even for theology," the principal said. "The only (print) book students will have is the Bible."