On August 17, 1953 Archbishop Karl Alter appointed Father James Krusling to establish this new parish. Thanks to the generosity of The Hollenkamp Family who established a burse of $6,000 in honor of Helen Hollenkamp, St. Helen Parish was created. Additional funds were donated by Holy Family Parish (which St. Helen began as a daughter parish of) and Sacred Heart Church.
In the late 1940’s the area east of Smithville Road was rural, but rapidly becoming a residential area. Realizing the future growth of the area Archbishop Karl Alter authorized the development of a new parish whose west boundary would be Smithville Road.
Authorization was received to build ten classrooms, a cafeteria, and a gym to serve as a school. In addition, a hall would be built to serve as a temporary church with the east end to serve as a temporary convent for the Sisters who would teach the children. The initial cost of school and equipment would be approximately $370,000.
Construction began on March 14, 1954. Parishioners were involved in the completion of the school building and furnishings. Over 500 desks had been acquired which needed refinishing. Heating, plumbing and wiring was installed in the convent. The intercom and public address system was installed; walls were sealed and painted, windows washed, floors polished and desks put in place.
The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur were assigned to teach at St. Helen School. Sister Provincial notified the Pastor that there would be six Sisters assigned initially.
The school was built for a maximum of 500 students. By August 1st, well over this number had registered and there was a waiting list for 1st and 2nd grades. Two rooms on the second floor of the convent were converted into classrooms and the Sisters would reside on Park Road. School opened on Sept. 7th with 528 students in the ten completed classrooms. Grades 5-6 and 7-8 were on half day sessions for six weeks. The cafeteria opened six weeks later.
From 1955 to 1959 four classrooms and offices were added. The Smith Building was purchased to provide three additional classrooms and a lunch room. Plans for the church that would seat 1100 people with additional classrooms on the ground floor began at a cost of over $300,000. Enrollment grew to over 1000 students.
During the 1960’s enrollment rose to over 1300 students; first grade was dropped to accommodate the number of students. A five and a half week summer school was held, and additional classrooms were added. The State of Ohio began providing bus transportation in 1966. The school library was completed. After eight years of work, the Boy Scouts and men of the parish completed the St. Helen Shrine of the blessed mother.
In the 1970’s, to help defray the expense of Catholic Education, it was necessary to charge tuition – $100 for the first child, $75 for the second child, $50 for the third chld with a maximum of $225 per family. A progress fund was established to loan money for tuition to those families unable to pay. In 1974, first grade was reinstated. In 1978 the twenty-fifth anniversary Jubilee year was celebrated.
During the 1980’s and 1990’s construction updates continued. A modular unit was added to the property to house auxiliary services such as speech therapy, intervention and counseling services. A stationary computer lab was installed and the school kitchen was renovated.
The early 2000’s brought many improvements to St. Helen. New lighting was added to the front of the school and Smith Building. New classroom lockers, school windows, TVs, VCRs and cabling were installed. In the primary building, new chairs and desks were purchased for the students.
In August of 2003, St. Helen celebrated its 50th anniversary. More technology was added to the school in the form of additional computers. The school would go on to add even more computers, laser printers and, with the help of a grant, acoustic guitars for use during music class.
2010: The library had been moved several times as had the cafeteria. There was now a stationary computer lab, an art room and a music room. (Only the gym/auditorium/cafeteria escaped an identity crisis!) The classrooms had phones, TVs, DVD players, and computers. The two laptop carts, one in each building, were in constant use. Six SMART Boards arrived as school started in the fall with four more installed by Christmas. Technology was here to stay.
2011: Seven Smart Boards, a Macbook, three computers and 20 Apple iPad2s were purchased. A new school PA system, clocks and new carpet and tile were installed in portions of the school.
2012: There was one SMART Board per grade and one in the Music Room. The 24 Dell laptops in the Main Building were replaced with “notebooks”. Sixteen document cameras and a multimedia projector were purchased. In addition to after-school Study Club sessions, other clubs available to our students included: Archery, Art, Drama, French, Spanish, Game board (including Chess), Stacking, Writing, and Youth of Tomorrow (leadership club).
2013: Complete parking lot replacement, new lights in the gym and some of the classrooms received new lockers.
2014: There were many changes this year. St. Helen extended their school day to 2:50 pm. A new universal behavioral system was instituted: Virtue Based Restorative Discipline. A new roof on the school and gym was installed, restrooms in the primary building were renovated and the gym floor was refinished. The students designed the emblem in the center! The library was updated with new paint, new carpet and a stationary computer lab was installed. This added an additional 24 hardwired laptops for students to use. A standard gym uniform was established.
2015: A long held vision of our parishioners and parents was realized. Playground equipment was purchased with the help of a grant, Booster Club, PTO, the Alter Rosary Society and private donations. This extensive eco-friendly structure includes sixteen play activities for our students. Located on our hill behind the school where students have recess and families gather for sporting events, it was installed by many dedicated volunteers.
In September St. Helen was named an official “WILD School Site” by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife as well as a certified Monarch Way Station by Monarch Watch. It acknowledges the Butterfly Garden installed by the Eco Club students. This award recognizes the efforts to enhance wildlife habitat and provides an outdoor classroom.
St. Helen School took an important step toward ensuring the safety of our students. With the help of a grant from the State of Ohio, a total of nine security cameras were installed throughout our campus, monitoring key locations of the interior of our buildings and the exterior campus.
2016: As we continue to offer a well rounded education, students in sixth through eighth grade are now taking Spanish as part of their curriculum. The middle school program transitioned to a block schedule to allow for this addition. St. Helen believes offering Spanish will benefit our students as they prepare to transition into the high school years where a foreign language for college prep is required. Kindergartners thru 5th grade continue to receive weekly Spanish lessons.
Recognizing that we now live in a digital world, St. Helen made the move to one-to-one technology in our seventh and eighth grades. Each student now has a Chromebook to use during the school day allowing access to his/her Google accounts and the internet. Also a new SMART Board was added to the Art Room.
A total of $25,000 was spent in upgrades; this includes the $10,000 invested in to the middle school stem program. The upgrades included the purchase of: 30 new microscopes, new science tables and chairs for the middle school science room, fuel cell cars, snap circuit sets, full size human skeleton model along with torso, eye and ear models, triple beam balances, two tray balances, digital scales and other items.
Our preschool program saw some exciting changes. St. Helen was awarded 16 Early Childhood scholarships from The State of Ohio. Additional spots were opened up within our extended care program. This allowed St. Helen to assist both current and new families.
In addition to all of these changes, two additional tutors/intervention aides were brought on the work with kindergarten through fourth grade students. Two more cameras were added to our security system. New desks and chairs were purchased for both 1st grade classes.
In the fall of 2017 a new program, ECHO was started at St. Helen. The ECHO program stands for Empowering Children with Hope and Opportunities and is affiliated with The University of Dayton. Counselors teach classes in pre-school-8th grade called second step, which is a social-emotional curriculum that teaches empathy, getting along with others, and how to manage anger. Counselors perform one -on- one therapy for depression, anxiety, adjustments to things like divorce, etc. also offer group therapy, i.e. I do a girls group on self esteem for 5th graders.
The year 2017 brought many exciting changes and improvements to our school. Technology was enhanced with the purchase of additional chrome books. St. Helen now has a one-to-one chrome book ratio for third through eighth grade. Smart boards were added to the preschool classrooms. Now every classroom at St. Helen is equipped with a Smart Board.
In addition to the technology improvements, upgrades were made to our buildings. This included adding air conditioning to all the rooms in our main building. Signs were added above all the rooms noting important spaces. A banner was purchased, and hung above the gym doors, showcasing the “Living Virtue, Building Character” logo. New desks were bought for both fifth grade classes as well as (student) tables for both kindergarten classes. Two new benches and a trash can were added to the area around our playground. The teachers’ lounge was redone with new tables, chairs, microwave and refrigerator to give our teachers a place to recharge before heading back into the classroom. Great things continue to happen at St. Helen!
In March of 2017, Ms. Lisa Simmons was recognized with an OUTstanding Teacher Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Five Rivers MetroParks. This award acknowledges Ms. Simmons commitment to exposing our students to the outdoors and encouraging nature exploration. This includes creating a Monarch Way Station which was recognized by The Ohio Division of Wildlife.
In 2018 St. Helen was excited to add additional grade levels who will now receive a formal Spanish class. Fourth and Fifth now join our middle school in getting a formal Spanish class. Kindergarten through third grade continue to get an introduction to Spanish.
Our facilities were improved with the replacement of nine roof skylights in the school, allowing more natural light into our building. A portable PA system was purchased for use during lunch periods and assemblies.
The improvements for 2019 were all focused on improving the safety of our school. St. Helen Staff worked with the Riverside Police Department to review our safety procedures and protocols for a lock down. Money from a state grant was used to purchase emergency kits and individual safety gear book bags for teachers to have in their classroom. In addition, new security cameras were purchased and installed. The current security cameras were upgraded.
During the year 2020, St. Helen has become an approved Preschool Promise School. This program provides so many benefits to our families as well as our preschool program. The programs provide to our staff with additional training as well as professional development and access to funding to purchase resources to strengthen our curriculum. In addition it provides our families with tuition assistance among other benefits. Preschool is so important and St. Helen is excited to be a part of this program.
Security continues to be a top priority. This year we outfitted all of the exterior doors with a product called “Scotchal Perforated Window Film”. This film allow an image to be seen on the outside while it maintains the view from the inside.
The St. Helen Butterfly Prayer Garden was recognized as a Certified Schoolyard Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. Only 5,000 schools nationwide have been awarded this honor.
Updated: June 22, 2020