St. Francis of Assisi School
What was once a large, vacant lot where children played and carnivals were held every spring became the site for a beautiful two-story brick building. In 1950 the cornerstone for the future school was laid, and on February 13, 1951, St. Francis of Assisi School was officially opened by the efforts of Monsignor Joseph Schaeffner, Pastor. Just twenty years after the dedication of St. Francis of Assisi Church, Archbishop Molloy dedicated the school.
When St. Francis of Assisi School first opened, classes were held from the first through third grades. The school was staffed by the Sisters of St. Dominic with one Principal, Sr. Mary Diana, O.P. and six other teachers. The first graduating class was June 1956 with 47 students. The school continued to grow with students coming from Most Precious Blood, Astoria and Corpus Christi, Woodside parishes. Enrollment progressed to necessitate two classes for each grade. First grade, taught by Sr. Mary Ida, for a time had morning and afternoon classes. In June 1961 the graduating class consisted of three classes.
Time brought different activities. In 1953 the Mother’s Club was formed as a liaison for the parents and teachers of the school. The award winning Fife and Drum Corps, CYO, and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts programs, under the direction of Rev. Joseph J. Schuck, flourished during his 22 years at St. Francis.
In 1989 Mrs. Barbara McArdle became the first lay Principal to follow six former Dominican Principals. The school at this time had no teaching sisters and a declining enrollment. Under this administration, the library was renovated and relocated to the second floor. On October 21, 1991, the library was dedicated in Monsignor Thomas P. Campbell’s name. 1991 witnessed the opening of the St. Francis of Assisi Pre-School Program for three year olds and increased enrollment in the lower grades became apparent. In October of 1992, St. Francis of Assisi received accreditation by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Elementary Schools. The Toddler Time Program for two year olds was started in the spring of 1994. Despite small classes in the upper school, enrollment in the lower in the lower school areas was increasing.
In 1995 thanks to the help of several parishioners, we witnessed the establishment of our new networked computer lab where the students use various programs and visit websites to enhance the curriculum. This lab has been upgraded again with the “old” computers finding a home in each classroom, all with Internet connection. Added to the summer school uniform was the option of shorts and golf shirts while today the choices range from khaki shorts and slacks to blazers and sweat suits.
By 1999 our basement became a Lower School with an additional room to compliment the three existing rooms. Another computer lab on the second floor was provided by a grant and became a Resource Room with Internet access. Three lunch periods were needed to accommodate our growing enrollment. Fund raising was ever popular with monthly endeavors.
The year 2000-2001 will be remembered as a year of nostalgia. We began with a Parish Feast and ended with an outdoor Mass in June. It was a culmination of the efforts of a wonderful “Anniversary” Committee who began planning two years in advance. A “Family Quilt” recognizing the present day students and their families adorned the front hall. It is a treasure that will be shared with future generations.
The following years witnessed a surge in the use of technology. SFA was completely wired with filtered high-speed Internet access and has its own website www.SFAschool.org. Successfully active in a variety of Best Buy and Diocesan grant initiatives as well as staff development opportunities, each classroom has a printer, a new computer, an LCD projector, screen, and Airliner or Chalkboard handheld interactivity. Several interactive whiteboards, 4 Classroom Performance (“clicker” systems) and 2 high-performance document cameras are shared. Digital and movie cameras are available as well as webcams for “Skyping” and microphones for podcasting. Our MediaCenter opens the 09-10 school year equipped with 30 brand new desktop computers as well as the recent LCD/screen installation and Airliner. Two laptop labs (one with 18 units the other with 15) are available for all to use. Breakthrough to Literacy grants have all students in K through grade 2 using computers daily to enhance reading.
Security cameras were installed at various locations around the school to help ensure the safety of our students. A defibrillator was placed on the first floor to benefit our school family in an emergency. A decline in enrollment was noticeable and provisions were made to compensate for the situation; a regrouping of grades became necessary. Special content teachers had their own classroom while Toddler Room became the site of a newly constructed Science Lab.
In 2004-2005 we celebrated our Parish’s 75th Anniversary and enjoyed a wonderful “Homecoming” Day. Alumni from almost every year were in attendance. We received Title I Services for Reading, Math, and Social Services along with Title II Grants, all of which provided additional academic support.
2006 saw the opening of two Universal Pre-K classes. This center-based program has helped increase the school’s enrollment. In 2008 a third class was opened bringing registration in the program to 54 students. This federally funded program is open to four year olds living in the city of New York.
The graduates of St. Francis of Assisi School take with them the experiences, values, knowledge, and skills that have prepared them to be productive citizens of our country and responsible citizens of our world. The warm, energetic spirit of the Sisters of St. Dominic, coupled with a strong, academic environment, continues to flourish at SFA.