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The History of Saint Athanasius School

In May of 1946, Fr. Clarence Ferring was appointed pastor at St. Athanasius Church. Fr. Ferring, who had recently returned from service as Chaplain in World War II, brought much energy to St. Athanasius and is responsible for much of its physical expansion. A school building fund was begun with a contribution of $1,000.00 from Archbishop Rohlman. For the parish campaign Robert Hogan was appointed chairman and was assisted by Nick Ehr, Bernard Frost, and S.G. (Wes) Vogel as vice-chairman. The goal for the project was $125,000.00. Land was purchased on both sides of Stevens Street, and construction of a three-story brick school building was begun in October, 1947. It was completed in September of 1949.


School opened with a staff of four Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There were 149 pupils in the eight grades occupying four classrooms. A large room in the school served as a parish church until 1955. The old Church was converted into a gymnasium. Fr. Ferring had living quarters in the school and the Sisters occupied the former rectory.


Parishioners contributed about 10,000 hours of hard work in the building of the school. In 1954 the convent on Hawley Street was moved to Stevens Street and was again used as a rectory. The Sisters occupied the newly purchased Holscher home a block west at 514 Stevens Street.


A fifth classroom was opened in the school and two lay teachers were added to the staff. Two more classrooms were opened in the school in 1955 and a ninth grade was added. A gymnasium was also built during that year.


The ninth grade was discontinued in 1956-57 school year when Don Bosco High School opened its doors that year. Thirty high school students from St. Athanasius went to Don Bosco High School by bus.


In the 1962-63 school year audio visual equipment consisted of two record players, a moving picture projection and one television set. As late as the 1970s we still had two convents -  a large home on Hawley street and a smaller house beside it. A new gym was built in 1983 to replace the original structure that was demolished in the Frost Oil explosion.


In 1998 an entire new addition was added to our school in connection with the new parish center addition to the church. This addition included three classrooms and allowed us to use our original school building to make some changes such as a larger library and a computer lab to adapt to the rapid expansion of technology in education.


Saint Athanasius began its early education programs with the addition of Kindergarten classes. Early education continued to expand with Pre-Kindergarten in the 2011-2012 school year. Two years later Preschool for 3-year old students was added in the 2013-2014 school year. The new addition now houses the Early Education Wing – Preschool, Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten and First Grade.


Over the next decade a primary feature of the change in education was the integration of technology into every day classroom use. Wireless internet was installed and 1-to-1 iPad use was introduced in grades 5 to 8. Interactive projectors were added to the classrooms. The inclusion of technology into each classroom meant the dedicated computer lab was repurposed as another classroom.


The original boiler heating the campus was replaced and new piping and registers were installed throughout the school. Later, a major renovation occurred in the summer of 2017 to remove old flooring and ceiling materials and replace them with new finishes. The library was split into a grade 5-8 library on the second floor and a preschool to grade 4 library on the first floor. A spare room was dedicated to STEM education (science, technology, education, math) and Lego League.


Saint Athanasius has made major strides in inclusivity and accessibility. In time for the 2019-2020 school year, a new accessible playground was added and then existing playground was remodeled including new state-of-the-art rubber surfaces.


A constant throughout all these years is a focus on our faith and how we live it. Daily religion class and weekly masses provide the core. Service learning expectations and associated opportunities encourage our students to live their faith in service to others. Throughout its 70-year history St. Athanasius has been at the forefront of changes in education and has produced exceptional results – consistently outperforming on assessments and producing numerous valedictorians.

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