On their first day of school, students at St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Silver Spring waited outside eagerly after being dropped off to welcome the youngest members of their community: the new preschool class.

This is the first year that the school has had a preschool, and on Sept. 5 they held an opening ceremony, which included a ribbon cutting by the Archdiocese of Washington’s superintendent of schools, Bill Ryan. 

“This is a really big deal for us,” said Brian Blomquist, the school’s principal. He noted that the last time the school expanded was in 1993, when they started their all-day kindergarten program.

“We’re doing it because we love to have kids here and we love to have your families here,” Blomquist told the parents and students.

Crystal Vinson, who has a student in the new preschool in addition to two children in the third and fifth grades at the school, said she is happy that her youngest son is getting an earlier start at the school. In addition to the convenience of having one drop off location, she appreciates the unique qualities that the Catholic school has taught her older children.

“It’s a great community. My older two here really learned things they wouldn’t get in a public school about social justice and faith,” said Vinson. “I’m excited for my youngest to do the same.”

After the whole school and many parents gathered outside for the ceremony, the 15 new four-year-old students led a small procession into the school, followed by Ryan, Blomquist, and Father David Brault, the pastor.

When they arrived in the newly renovated preschool room, which used to be the parish’s Knights of Columbus room - and before that the kindergarten classroom – Father Brault led them in a prayer, where he asked that the new students may “become more and more the people you made them to be.”

Blomquist said the school started thinking about opening a preschool about two years ago, when they polled school parents and parishioners to see if there was a need. They found that they would be able to fill a preschool just with siblings of current students, and decided to start the process of expanding their school community.

“I knew that I wanted [a preschool] because of all of the families that would come with four year olds,” Blomquist said. “It was hard for us to tell them we couldn’t take them and see them go [somewhere else].”

Blomquist said he knew all those students would start attending another school where they would make friends and establish a community, which were “all the things I wanted to do with them.”

“We felt like we had to do this just to be a really strong school for families,” he said.

The school is going to try to include the preschool students in everything they can, although they will have to wait and see how well the youngest students will be able to sit through a school Mass. As they learn how to best incorporate the newest addition to their community, Blomquist said he looks forward to visiting the classroom, just as he already loves visiting the kindergarten class.

“If I get to spend a little time in there, I know it is going to be a great day,” he said. “They make you feel really good to be with them.”