St. Matthew School, the only Catholic PreK-8 school in Williamson County, will offer an inclusive Catholic education program to students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, beginning in the 2020-2021 school year.
The Hand-In-Hand Options program was started at John Paul II High School in 2004 to offer academic opportunities to families with students of all learning levels to attend school together. The Hand-in-Hand program was later extended to St. Ann School for elementary and middle grades during the 2017-2018 school year. Next year, St. Matthew will be the first private school in Williamson County to offer this type of program. With the Hand-In-Hand program, families in Williamson County now have a choice for keeping students together with their siblings and peers throughout their school careers.
“As a Catholic community, we are called to provide a supportive and inclusive faith-based community where all students can learn and grow in their faith while receiving the necessary educational foundation for success” says Rebecca Hammel, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Nashville. “We are so pleased St. Matthew chose to offer this program in Williamson County.”
The Hand-In-Hand Program has enjoyed 15 years of success at Pope John Paul II High School with its students graduating and continuing to post-secondary programs and entering gainful employment.
Due the success of the program and the need in the community, a team of educators from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, and the Vanderbilt University Peabody College Center for Special Education, along with diocesan and parochial school representatives met for a year to develop the Hand-In-Hand Program for the elementary grades. The 2017-18 academic year was the pilot year at Saint Ann School and was met with great success.
“We look forward to carrying on the success seen at St. Ann’s,” says Tim Forbes, Principal at St. Matthew School. “Now, families in Williamson County can send all of their children to school together for academic preparation and the opportunity to grow in their faith.”
The Catholic Schools Office of the diocese will hold an Open House on March 12 for families interested in learning more about the Hand In Hand program offered at St. Matthew, St. Ann and John Paul II High School. The Open House will run from 6-8 p.m. in Breen Hall at St. Ann, with a presentation at 6:30 p.m. Representatives from all three schools will be in attendance. More information is available at www.dioceseofnashville.
St. Matthew School is a Catholic, diocesan elementary school serving 435 students from Pre-K to grade eight. It was founded in 2001 and provides its students with a progressive, well-rounded education rooted in a strong faith foundation in the Catholic tradition. For more information on St. Matthew and its Pre-K program, please visit: stmatthewtn.org/school. St. Matthew School is located at 533 Sneed Road W, Franklin.