Students return to classroom

The opening bell rings and a few tears flow as thousands of children across the Diocese of Venice return to school for the 2023-24 School Year.

From pre-kindergarten to seniors in high school, the students will face rigorous course work which will develop them academically, physically – and most importantly – spiritually.

On the first day, friendships are renewed, new bonds are formed, and new challenges are accepted by students at every level.

At St. Andrew Catholic School in Cape Coral, Principal David Nelson and his team of staff and faculty were ready to go as 636 students – the most ever in the school’s 34 years history – arrived on the steamy morning of Aug. 9, 2023, for the first day of school.

Nelson and other staff were outside the front entrance for the carline – opening doors and greeting familiar and new faces alike. Wearing their school uniform – shirt or sweatshirt with the school logo, and tan or blue shorts – some of the students were tired, others were excited to be back, but all entered the school with a smile.

For the first day many parents escorted their child to the classroom where there were hugs, with parting comments from the parents including: “Have fun!” “Good luck!” “Miss you already!” and “I love you!” Following a few last “First Day of School” photos, the parents departed, and everyone quickly settled into their seats comforted in the knowledge that they now had many new friends.

These scenes were repeated at each of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools. The high schools had less tears and more fun as those students settled into their year. At each Diocesan Catholic high school – Bishop Verot in Fort Myers, Cardinal Mooney in Sarasota, St. John Neumann in Naples and Donahue Academy of Ave Maria Catholic School in Ave Maria – there were special “Senior Sunrise” welcomes for the graduating class of 2023. Each school was completely open by Aug. 10, with some staggering their starts over two days.

St. Andrew and nearly all of the 15 Diocesan Catholic schools are full, with extensive waitlists at several schools, and final enrollment numbers expected to exceed 6,100, up more than 1,000 in two years.

Diocesan Catholic schools work conscientiously to provide Christ-centered learning experiences that are transportable to the real world and provide the opportunity for children to develop life-long learning skills and to be successful beyond the classroom.

Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, said he expects great things from the students within the Diocese in the 2023-2023 Academic Year as a great effort has gone into increasing academic standards while focusing on developing a strong “Catholic School Culture.”

“This culture is the vision, values, systems, language, expectations, behaviors, and beliefs that increase a school’s and Diocese’s chances of accomplishing the strategy of fulfilling its mission: to introduce the world to its Savior,” Father Belmonte said.