Former St. Paul’s School Building Repurposed

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

Wilmington Head Start

Head Start officials cut the ribbon during the grand opening of the renovated St. Paul’s School building. (Photo courtesy of Todd Carpenter)

WILMINGTON, Del. — A former Catholic school at St. Paul’s Church has been repurposed. Now, instead of elementary students, preschoolers are using the building.

On Nov. 14, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the site of the former St. Paul’s School to officially inaugurate the opening of a new location for Head Start, a federally funded program providing early childhood education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services to low-income families.

The partnership with Head Start is a win-win, according to pastor Todd Carpenter, OFM. Children in need are being served and the parish benefits from renting the building.

After St. Paul’s School closed in June 2011, after operating for 124 years, Head Start began renting the first floor of the building in September 2012. The organization intended to occupy the second floor after completing major renovations, according to Todd, pastor since 2008.

“St. Paul’s is very happy to have this partnership with Head Start,” he said. “They are great tenants and provide a much needed service to our community. In 2012, we signed a 10-year lease with Head Start for the use of two floors of our school building. St. Paul’s retains the use of the hall for parish events. The rental will help ensure the financial viability of St. Paul’s Parish for years to come.

“During the past year, Head Start completely renovated the second floor, constructing new classrooms and offices, installing new bathrooms and a handicap ramp at the front entrance, and adding a sprinkler system throughout the building,” he noted. “This past September, they began occupying the second floor and now have 212 children in the school. The St. Paul’s location is one of three Head Start schools in Wilmington, serving 500 children in the city.”

November was a busy month for the St. Paul’s community. On Nov. 19, St. Paul’s, founded in 1869, celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Divine Providence, the patroness of Puerto Rico. The main celebration at the 10:30 a.m. Mass was followed by a luncheon in the school hall.

“The Mass was packed, with more than 500 people, and included traditional Puerto Rican dancing as part of the entrance and recessional processions,” said Todd. “The celebration continued in the school hall with more dancing, Puerto Rican music, poetry readings, and a delicious Puerto Rican meal of pernil (shredded pork), with rice, beans, yucca (cassava) and flan for dessert.”

This month, St. Paul’s will commemorate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, an important day for faith communities with a Mexican heritage.

Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.