Bennett High School

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St. Paul Catholic School was established in 1909. Students were taught in the basement of the church on dirt-covered floors by the Sisters of St. Josephs. It accommodated grades one through six in the small church building on Ninth and Branson Streets. Eventually time went by and much has had changed, St. Paul grade school became what we used to know as Bennett High School, located on a 25 acre site on Kem Road. In the year of 1993 after 60 years of existence, Bennett High School closed, leaving though the middle school and the elementary school open and changing its name back to St. Paul Catholic School. Today St. Paul Catholic School only has an elementary school ranging from first to sixth grade. (History of the St. Paul Catholic Schools)

The Beginning

In the year 1910, Rev. Father John Durham, pastor of St. Paul Catholic Church, gave his consent for the construction of the Parochial school of St. Paul Catholic School; it opened the first week of September. At the time, the building was just one-half the size it would soon become with four rooms and a library. The building, built of brick and stone, stood two stories high with a basement that was practically fire proof, which was steam heated all throughout the building. That day there was an estimation of about 175 students who would show up for the opening of the school. The school contained four faculty members that year.(Marion Man Gets Land in Return for Small Favor)

Add Ons to the new High School

In 1924, an addition was made to the school building which made room for the first two grades of Bennett High School. The final two grades were added in 1932. The construction and financing under the consent of the parishioners of St. Paul Catholic Church of the new High School on Kem Road would start in the year 1954. In the year 1955, Bishop John Bennett dedicated the new high school with the bearing of his name, calling it Bennett High School. The new school would be on a twenty-five acre site that included a two story school, a gymnasium which would be called McKeown Gymnasium, holding over two-thousand eight hundred seats, and outdoor athletic facilities. Later that year, McCarthy Hall was constructed to provide additional meeting room, student assembly, and recreational space. In the school year 1973-74, an addition of a kindergarten was added to the St. Paul School. The school system then consisted of a elementary that ranged from kindergarten to sixth grade, a middle school from seventh to eighth grade, and a high school ranging from ninth through twelfth grade. St. Paul evolved substantionally in that 64-year time span from 1909 following to 1973, but the school still had more in store. (History of the St. Paul Catholic Schools)

The Last Days

The year of 1992, the St. Paul School would soon say good-bye to the last nuns. Since 1909, St. Paul School would go through something truly new for the first time. When nuns first came to the parish in 1909, from the St. Joseph community more than 80 sisters from the community had taught at the St. Paul School up until the year 1992. Sisters Floretta Martin, Cora Thoman, and Mary Wurm all changed ministries and left the schools to return to their community-the Sisters of St. Joseph in Tipton County. (Smith) The next year in 1993, St. Paul would take a major blow. In 1989, the St. Paul School had to start charging tuition due to declining enrollment tied to lower birth rates. Many thought that small private schools could not compete with the course offerings and technology of bigger schools such as Marion High School. This severely hurt Bennett High School. The St. Paul School needed $1.5 million to keep the Bennett High School open for another five years. Many Bennett officials thought that amount was impossible to raise and admitted they need a miracle to stay open, especially knowing the fact that the highest raised money by the United Way of Grant County was $861, 000. (Cairns) The school tried their hardest to raise the $1.5 million but in the end it just wasn’t a miracle to keep the Bennett High School open. On a Monday in March of 1993, the students and faculty sat in the lobby of the school. Almost 100 older Bennett students, teachers and school administrators chanted “Save Our Schools.” The High School had their last high school ceremony for the sixteen graduates including a Junior Bryce Whitacre on June 7, 1993. (Renken)


St. Paul School has made a major impact on our community in Grant County from the year 1909 to present day now in 2007. It opened a new outlook on furthering the catholic community education and religious views of our town. Even though the school had its ups and down the school still gave a good outlook on the community by providing a private school environment for students to further their education for their futures.

Zakk Thieken submitted this paper for Mr. Munns AP US History class on 6-4-07