This year, John Calvin School enters its 55th year of providing Reformed, Christian Education. The school was built in 1964 by the members of the Canadian Reformed Church and School Society of Smithville. It began as a two-story building with four classrooms on the upper floor for the school and meeting rooms, a nursery, and a place to hold the Dutch worship services in the basement for the Smithville Church.
Steady growth necessitated the addition of another four classrooms. As of 1970, John Calvin School was serving two congregations: Smithville and her newly-instituted daughter congregation in Lincoln. Continued growth in the Niagara Peninsula resulted in the institution of two more daughter congregations. Attercliffe separated from Smithville in 1985; Tintern from Lincoln in 1990. John Calvin became a regional school serving four congregations. The facilities again became too small, and over time, three portables were added to accommodate the increase in enrollment. During these years, the school also obtained full use of the basement when the annex built on to the Smithville church building was completed. This change made it possible to add a full-size library, a special education room, and an additional classroom.
Growth reached its peak in the 1994-95 school year. John Calvin School was operating 14 classrooms and a full-time special education program for 335 students taught by a staff of 15 full-time and 3 part-time teachers. During the course of this school year, the Attercliffe congregation began its own school society and built an eight-classroom school. The split became a reality in September, 1995 when the school in Attercliffe began to operate with approximately 125 students spread over five classrooms.
With the opening of A.C.R.E.S., the pressure was temporarily relieved, but the population soon began to grow again. All the while, a long-standing desire to expand the facilities and include a gym also grew. It didn’t take too long before our numbers again approached 300 and four portable classrooms were once more in use. With the institution of Grassie, in 2001, we once more had four supporting churches.
In the spring of 2002 a membership meeting was presented with a proposal for expansion which was approved with a significant majority. The new facility was to add six classrooms, a gymnasium, a kitchen, offices and a staff room. On August 20, 2002, the Core Fund-raising Committee, charged with the task of raising the necessary funds, first met. This CFC set about its work quickly and began organizing for fulfilling its mandate. They established a theme for their work as follows: Foundations for Generations Building Campaign.
The community was kept informed of the progress of the work of Fund-raising and actual building via newsletters. By May of 2003, the fund consisted of $600 000.00, by November of that year it was up to $1 400 000.00, and so forth until by December of 2005 it stood at just over $2 000 000.00! In the meantime, the actual work got underway as well, with the site being cleared in late July of 2004, and the final touches were made to the gymnasium, the final stage, in September of 2005. By that time, students and teachers were already busily working in the new classrooms.
Finally, on November 12, 2005, we were able to have an official opening program which was well-attended, representing all the elements of the school community and the local authorities as well. With joy we gave thanks to God for His manifold blessings. During the school year 2005-2006, the newly expanded facilities first served a student population of 284, supported by a staff of 15 full time and 5 part time teachers, teachers’ assistants and administrative personnel.
May the hopes expressed in the official opening souvenir program be realized in the years to come. To quote:
“With this Grand Opening event we are able to celebrate the completion of this project and dedicate it to the work of the on-going education of covenant children in the fear of the LORD, to help nurture them to maturity as God-fearing, law-abiding and productive citizens of God’s Kingdom, their communities and this blessed land. A task, indeed, of laying foundations for generations to come.”
That continues to be our task to this day. In September, 2014, the new facility will enter its ninth year of use and it has indeed become a central facility for the wider church communities as well. Many weddings, anniversaries and special celebrations have been conducted specifically in the gym, under those circumstances usually decked out in festive attire itself. For the better part of a year, it was used for church services by Smithville congregation, while its new church facilities were under construction. Much more could be mentioned……but suffice it to say that it has been a blessing for the entire community, quite beside the benefits of its use as a physical education “classroom”.
May it continue to serve its immediate and broader purpose for many years to come, and be a unifying factor for the community at large.
The Lord continues to bless the growth of John Calvin School. In the 2013-2014 school year, Kindergarten was added to the school making JCS a K-8 school. During the same school year, the membership of the school society voted in favour of adding a Special Needs department to the school. In order to accommodate the Special Needs department, and because of a continuing increase in enrollment, another addition needed to be built. An expansion committee was struck and planning began to add a new wing to John Calvin School. The committee adopted the slogan, Building on Blessings, for the fundraising campaign to raise the necessary funds ($1.4 million) for the addition. In a year’s time, the necessary monies had been donated or pledged and construction could begin. In January of 2016, the shovel went into the ground and building began. Construction went smoothly and the new wing was completed by the beginning of August, in plenty of time to receive the Special Needs students and the students in Grades 7 & 8 for the 2016-2017 school year. We thank and praise the Lord for this great blessing.
May our Heavenly Father continue to bless the work done at John Calvin School now, and in the years to come.
Revised in August, 2018