‘Microschool’ approach of St. Edward, Chillicothe, shared in national magazine
CHILLICOTHE — When it comes to multiage instruction, Mike Domico did his homework and now St. Edward School here is earning high marks with parents, teachers and parishioners, not to mention the National Catholic Educational Association.
Domico, principal of St. Edward School, was featured in the November issue of Momentum Magazine, which is published by the NCEA. “Talking to Your Community about Your Microschool,” was written by Jill Annable, NCEA senior vice president for programs, and illustrated with photos by Lindsay Verdun, school photographer.
In the article, Domico talks about the process that led him and Father Matthew Deptula, pastor, to move from traditional classroom instruction — one grade per classroom — to a multiage format and how they introduced that in January 2020. The result is not one family left the school and enrollment has increased from 101 students last year to 119 this year.
While most of the gains came in the preschool, St. Edward added students in almost all grades and has the largest kindergarten class since 2014.
“We announced it to the teachers and the parents that we were moving to a multiage format in the Fall of 2020 for the purpose of right sizing our school but maintaining the academic quality,” Domico told The Catholic Post. “It’s a high-achieving school without a doubt.”
A series of town hall meetings was planned for early 2020, but when COVID-19 sent students home for remote instruction that spring Domico had to find another way of getting information out to the parents. “We didn’t want to lose anyone,” he said.
“I came up with what I called my Friday Facts. Every Friday I would publish to the parents an email that would outline a feature of the multiage classroom,” Domico explained. “I’d only take one concept at a time because I wanted to keep the articles fairly short.”
He told Momentum that in 12 or 13 articles he covered such topics as what a multiage classroom looks like, why it works at different developmental ages, how peers conduct group work, and the social-emotional learning advantages of this type of instruction.
While the preschool and kindergarten stand alone at St. Edward, grades one and two and then three and four are paired.
Grades five, six, seven and eight employ a hybrid model with three teachers taking care of that curriculum. “So there are some classes that are single classes and some that are multiage,” Domico said.
“We’re finding we can reach a lot more student abilities,” he told The Post. “If a student is struggling, they have two years with that same teacher to master that material, instead of one and then we move them on.”
The key piece in all of this is the teachers, according to Domico.
“They are really doing a great job in all this and we’re learning, we’re learning,” he said. “We’re jumping in.”