Middle School

Middle School FAQ

List of 15 frequently asked questions.

  • Q: Why is Saint John’s opening a middle school?

    Middle school is a critical time in the academic, social and faith development of young people—particularly boys. Research has shown that boys achieve higher levels of academic and social success with fewer school transitions and smaller class size. This is particularly true in the kind of environment that we provide at Saint John’s—one that respects boys’ unique social and emotional needs while emphasizing high expectations. For many years, we have been asked by alumni and families whether we would consider developing a middle school program for boys. Nearly three years ago the Board of Trustees and school leadership began to think deliberately and strategically about the possibility of expanding our educational model to better deliver on our promise to fully develop the potential that exists in young men. The addition of seventh and eighth grades will allow a broader group of students the opportunity to experience Saint John’s earlier in their educational journey, and will uniquely prepare them not only for the transition to a challenging preparatory curriculum, but also to live meaningful lives as good and honorable husbands, fathers, friends, brothers and citizens. As a Xaverian Brothers sponsored school, we take seriously our commitment to serve the local educational Catholic community, and with this expansion, we are providing a middle school education exclusively for boys, an option that has not been previously available to families in Central Massachusetts.
  • Q:
    What are the benefits of adding a middle school?

    For over 120 years a Saint John’s education has guided young men in their intellectual, spiritual, social, moral, athletic, and aesthetic development. With the addition of a middle school, we can reach more young men earlier in their educational journey and uniquely prepare them not only for the rigors of our college preparatory curriculum, but also for lives of meaning and purpose. Research shows that schools with a broad span of grade levels present opportunities that do not exist in traditional middle school models. In a seventh to twelfth grade environment, middle school students can better aspire to who they will become by observing and interacting with high school students.

    Having high school students together on campus with middle school students presents exciting opportunities for both groups. For middle school students, the benefits include having additional role models both academically and personally. For high school students, the presence of middle school students on campus provides additional leadership opportunities and enhances our existing culture of mentorship across grade levels that helps students form lifelong bonds of brotherhood.

    As part of our community, students in the middle school division will have access to state-of-the-art innovative learning spaces, newly updated athletic facilities, and cutting-edge, STEM, theater and arts spaces.
  • Q:
    When will the middle school open? When can students apply? How many students will be accepted?

    In its first year, the middle school division will consist of just seventh grade and will grow to include eighth grade in 2021 as the first cohort of students advances. The school will open on September 2, 2020 with its first seventh grade class of 75–90 students and an average class size of 18–22 students. When it is fully established, in fall 2021, the middle school division will include between 150–180 students. The middle school division is intentionally designed to be smaller to ensure students who do not attend Saint John’s for middle school still have the option to attend in high school. With an average graduating high school class of 225–230, the majority of high school students will be welcomed in ninth grade. We will begin accepting applications for the seventh grade on July 1, 2019. Additional information about admissions criteria and the admissions process will be available soon.
  • Q: What will it cost to attend the middle school? Will financial aid be available, and where will that money come from?

    Tuition for the middle school division for the 2020-2021 academic year will be $14,900.

    Financial aid will be available for middle school students and the financial aid program will be expanded to meet the growing population. The availability of financial aid for high school students, which has increased by 143 percent in the past 10 years, will not be impacted by the addition of a middle school.
  • Q: What will the middle school curriculum include?

    A Saint John’s education fosters the development of the whole person by helping students discover and develop their God-given talents. Saint John’s imbues young men with a profound sense of compassion, humility, trust, simplicity and zeal. Every aspect of a Saint’s John’s education—from retreats and service trips to classroom discussions, athletic competitions and the traditions that unite Pioneers across generations—help ground students’ faith and morality in lived experience. Through their Saint John’s education, students discover a powerful sense of meaning and worth within themselves. 

    Like the high school, the ultimate goal of the academic education in the middle school division is the fullest development of the intellect of each student using subject matter as tools to attain this end. The academic curriculum for the middle school will focus on building the competencies critical to personal and professional success, including independent thinking and problem solving, teamwork and collaboration, initiative and self-direction, effective written and oral communications, critical analysis and time management. Students will master these skills through exploration of English, math, religion, science, social studies, world language, physical education/health and wellness, and enriching electives in the arts and computer science.
  • Q:
    What athletic and co-curricular opportunities will students have?

    Middle school students at Saint John’s will have access to a robust and exciting athletic and co-curricular program in some of the finest, most state-of-the-art facilities of any school in Central Massachusetts. The co-curricular program will be supervised by the middle school faculty and include a wide array of offerings including robotics, engineering, speed cubing, newspaper, e-Sports, weekly service, academic clubs (such as Math team), and other clubs and activities where students identify an interest.

    Athletically, students will be provided opportunities to compete as a Pioneer on both interscholastic and intramural teams. With our teams, our goal will be to expose students to many of the 17 sports offered at the high school level, with a focus on participation, skill development, good sportsmanship, and building the competitive spirit that has been a hallmark of Pioneer athletics since our founding.
  • Q:
    Where will the middle school be located?

    The middle school division will occupy its own collection of classrooms and offices on the second floor of Conal Hall. A dedicated entrance will be constructed that will create a separate, centrally-located space for the middle school, while remaining accessible and able to integrate with all of campus. Renovations to Conal Hall are expected to begin in May 2020. Expansions to the physical campus in recent years (addition of Founders Hall, athletic facilities, Makerspace for Engineering and Robotics) have positioned us well to accommodate a middle school with minimal construction and disruption to current students.
  • Q:
    What resources will be shared?

    Other areas of the school—Salem Student Commons (cafeteria), McCarthy Library, science labs, art studios and music rooms, athletic facilities, and theater rehearsal and performance space (Robert R. Jay Performing Arts Center and Blackbox Theater)—which currently have capacity for increased student use, will be shared. Middle school students will also participate in programming in the Gregory Academic Center and the Campus Ministry Center.
  • Q:
    Who will teach middle school students?

    Saint John’s will welcome Sean Dillon as founding assistant principal. Mr. Dillon has dedicated his career to boys’ middle school and Catholic education and possesses a keen understanding of the importance of the seventh and eighth grade years to the academic and personal success of students as they continue to high school and beyond. Mr. Dillon will join Saint John’s after 15 years at Nativity School of Worcester, where he served first as a teacher, and most recently as principal for the past 10 years. Dillon earned his B.A. at the College of the Holy Cross, an M.A. in teaching from Clark University, and a M.Ed. in education leadership, with a concentration in Catholic school leadership, from Boston College. Working closely with principal Margaret Granados and headmaster Alex Zequeira, both of whom have extensive middle school teaching and administration experience, he will oversee the development of the middle school and the hiring of 10–13 new full-time faculty and staff including a middle school counselor, one-to-two specialists (art, music, computer science, etc.), and a middle school administrative assistant. The focus of our recruitment and hiring of the middle school faculty and staff will be attracting candidates who have a demonstrated expertise in teaching in the seventh and eighth grades. Middle school faculty will teach four classes and have additional responsibilities including coaching, moderating a club or activity, and supervising before and after school programs. A robust and age-appropriate Campus Ministry program, a signature program of the Saint John’s experience, will be available to the middle school division.
  • Q:
    If a student enrolls in the middle school will they need to reapply for admission to the high school?

    No. Saint John’s is transitioning to a seventh–twelfth grade model. Therefore, at whatever point a young man is admitted to the school, he remains a student at the school assuming he meets all academic and behavioral expectations. The middle school assistant principal and the middle school faculty will be in regular contact with families to assess every student’s high school readiness as they approach the ninth grade. High school academic leveling will be determined by the assistant principal for middle school in consultation with the assistant principal for academics for grades 9–10.
  • Q:
    Will a student’s financial aid from the middle school follow them to the high school?

    Financial aid is available for both middle and high school students. Like is currently the practice in the high school division, students and families will need to apply for financial aid each year a student is enrolled.
  • Q:
    Will adding a middle school change the school’s mission?

    No. In fact, this model is rooted deep in the school’s history and tradition. While well-known currently for excellence in high school education, Saint John’s was first established by the Xaverian Brothers in 1894 as a grammar school for fourth, fifth and sixth grade boys. We later added a three-year high school program, and eventually included a fourth when the College of the Holy Cross ended their college preparatory program. Our story includes our move from Temple Street in Worcester to Main Street in Shrewsbury in 1961, which paved the way for pivotal growth that continued to enhance the Saint John’s experience and allowed Saint John’s to serve a wider community. We remain committed to the mission established by the Brothers more than 120 years ago, and our expansion will allow us to better fulfill our promise to help students reach their full potential, beginning at an earlier age. Though Saint John’s has experienced change, we remained true to our mission of academic excellence, development of the whole person and bringing Christ to the lives of young men. We are blessed to be able to extend that opportunity to include middle school students.
  • Q:
    How much interaction will middle school students have with high school students?

    Having high school students together on campus with middle school students presents opportunities for both groups that have not been previously available. For middle school students, the benefits include having additional role models both academically and personally. For high school students, the presence of middle school students on campus will provide mentorship and leadership opportunities that currently are sought off campus. And for both sets of students, the opportunity to build a larger and stronger Saint John’s will ground them in our community of academic excellence and faith. Saint John’s students learn from the diverse perspectives that are freely exchanged on campus and form lifelong bonds of brotherhood in the process.

    While we are excited about opportunities for the entire Saint John’s community to come together in ways that improve the experience for everyone, we are also mindful of the fact that middle and high school boys are at very different stages developmentally. For that reason we feel it is important for the middle school to have its own dedicated and separate space of classrooms and offices on the second floor of Conal Hall.  
  • Q:
    Is the decision to add a middle school the result of declining enrollment?

    No. Saint John’s continues to enjoy healthy enrollment, with a current student body of 889, and is financially very strong. We are blessed to be able to approach the addition of a middle school from a position of fiscal strength and based on our research, anticipate that the middle school will be fully enrolled within a year of opening. We are fortunate to be able to make the decision to expand our mission and offer new opportunities for boys in Central Massachusetts because we want to—not because we have to. 
  • Q:
    How will this impact other Catholic schools in Central Massachusetts?

    We take very seriously our mission to serve the local Catholic educational community and our students and families. Creating a middle school allows us to expand the ways in which we are fulfilling that mission, offering boys in seventh and eighth grade in Central Massachusetts the opportunity to attend an all-male, Catholic middle school, an option that previously hasn’t been available to students and families in the area.

    Demographic and past enrollment trends indicate that the majority of middle school students expected to attend Saint John’s are likely to matriculate from public schools in surrounding towns. Over the past three years, an average of 29.8 percent of our high school students attended private or Catholic K-8 schools, while 70.2 percent attended public middle schools. Last year, 25.6 percent of the incoming class matriculated from private or Catholic K-8 schools, while 74.4 percent came from public middle schools.

    In the last 10 years Diocesan enrollment at the middle school level has dropped 42 percent. We hope to either keep students in Catholic education through their middle school years or bring students into Catholic education earlier.