Fairfax

While other schools are shrinking, St. Adalbert expands

While many schools in Cleveland are experiencing low enrollment, St. Adalbert Catholic School has nearly doubled in student population size since 2012. The opening of Cletus Jeckering Learning Center—for students in Pre-Kindergarten through second grade—will bring St. Adalbert’s total student enrollment to 465 for this school year.

St. Adalbert President Jim Smith—who served as principal for the last eight years—attributes the school's success to leadership and collaboration. He credits their Fairfax neighborhood partners, including Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation and PNC Fairfax Connection, for their continued support. “It's great and it's not just word of mouth. I think it's something where if people are interested and they see something good, they want to be a part of it,” says Smith.

An Aug. 20 ribbon-cutting ceremony drew dignitaries to St. Adalbert Catholic School.To celebrate the completion of the Cletus Jeckering Learning Center, Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Bishop Nelson Perez led an Aug. 20 ribbon-cutting ceremony, along with special guests Tom Jeckering, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Ward 6 Councilman Blaine Griffin, Reverend Gary Chmura, other community leaders, and more than 100 attendees.

The excitement of the ribbon cutting didn’t stop Smith from tidying up the front lawn of the school while greeting guests as they walked up for the ceremony. “Leaders lead by example, get their hands dirty, and do what they’re supposed to do,” Smith says. A constant source of energy and enthusiasm, Smith clearly is dedicated to St. Adalbert's success.

“The school’s opening is not only good for the Fairfax community but good for the entire city of Cleveland,” Jackson says.

Students will enjoy a newly constructed 13,000-square-foot building with nine classrooms, a cafeteria, and a playground. The new school and playground are an extension of St. Adalbert Catholic School and take up a once-vacant lot at 2345 East 83rd St. Construction of the school began in September 2018 and was completed this summer.

The success of the project was due to the “Power of One” fundraising campaign. It raised nearly $5 million for the school’s construction, which included a generous donation from the Jeckering Family. The “Power of One” campaign is ongoing, as the school seeks to raise money for staff and programming.

The school plans to continue the celebration with a major fundraiser, Rock the Block, Friday, Oct. 4, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. During the celebration, the inside of the new building will be unveiled. The event will also feature “The Line Dance King,” Robert Johnson Jr.

The Cletus Jeckering Learning Center, and St. Adalbert as a whole, have brightened up the community and will continue to expand their campus with the help of Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation. Smith remains optimistic about the future of St. Adalbert and Fairfax: “There are so many good things happening in Fairfax in general. How could you not feel positive about it?”

The first African-American Catholic church in Cleveland, the institution holds history and hope. As Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation Executive Director Denise VanLeer says, “It really is a special place. … It’s one of those neighborhood jewels.”

This article is part of our On the Ground - Fairfax community reporting project in partnership with Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation, Cleveland Clinic, PNC Bank, Greater Cleveland Partnership, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, and Cleveland Development Advisors. Read the rest of our coverage here.
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