FAIRHOPE — Shaded by large trees and surrounded by blooming flowers sits St. James Episcopal School. Situated beside St. James Episcopal Church on 11 acres, it is the only Episcopal school on the Eastern Shore. It opened in August 2018 as a preschool with 17 students attending.
Today, it is a Pre-k2 through second grade with approximately 80 students enrolled. The school's board voted in February to add a third-grade class beginning in the 2022-2023 school year.
"We're growing, so it's an exciting time at St. James," said Director Shelley Miller. "Prior to St. James' opening, there was not an Episcopal School on the Eastern Shore, so we are excited to be the first. Our long-term goal is for future expansion. We will be adding a third-grade next year."
Even as the school grows, Miller said the faculty will continue to keep the school's unique environment the same.
"We want to continue our curriculum and to strengthen it in every way," she said. "Our mission is to introduce children to Christ in a nurturing environment by providing exemplary preparation for future learning. I feel like it's very important to know that your children are safe here, they're loved and they're in a wonderful environment with caring staff."
School hours are from 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m., and extended day options are offered from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Students, from Pre-k2 and up, attend chapel once a week and participate in enrichment classes daily. Enrichment classes include Spanish, library, music, Godly Play and environmental science. The music program recently added Orff instruments. Kindergarten through second (and soon third) grade attend physical education classes daily. This is the school's first year to participate in Youth Development League soccer.
The school also features a large playground area that the church helped to facilitate. It includes playground equipment, picnic tables and an area where students can ride bikes. First and second grade students take weekly field trips to the Fairhope Public Library, while younger students have onsite field trips.
Students also stay connected within their community through outreach projects.
"We try to do outreach projects starting with our Pre-k2 and up," Miller said. "We've collected food items for Prodisee Pantry, and now we're collecting goods for Wilmer Hall in Mobile. We want to instill in our children the importance of giving back to our community."
There are currently openings in kindergarten, first, second, and soon, third grade. The student/teacher ratio at St. James is nine to one, and classrooms have one teacher and one teacher assistant. Tours of the school can be requested by calling the school office at 251-928-2912 or by scheduling online at www.stjamesfairhope.school. The school is located at 860 N. Section St., Fairhope.
"We just want our children to have a good experience at St. James, and most importantly a love of learning," said Miller. "A lot of kids I feel like lose that these days, and it's so important that they feel that they can come to school and be comfortable, and at the same time enjoy being here while learning."