Educating in the Christian Way of Life (05/17)

BY KELLY BRAINARD, ST. FRANCIS XAVIER DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR / May 2017

Next year St. Francis Xavier Catholic School will be celebrating its 140th anniversary. Throughout the years St. Francis Xavier Catholic School has been passing on the Gospel values and rich heritage to assist parents in the Adams County area in the spiritual, moral and academic education of their children and to prepare our students to be faith-filled members of the church, community and nation.

In 1877, after the Civil War, Father Joseph Boll opened the first Catholic School, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, in the Gettysburg community. The school began very modestly with Father Boll acting as Principal. The building was a weather-board structure that housed 103 students. The course of study included the usual elementary courses as well as Catechism, Bible History, and Algebra. Later, bookkeeping, modern history and Latin were added.

From the beginning, the school was financed by tuition fees. The first three years, students paid tuition of fifty cents per month, plus an assessment of ten cents per month for fuel, ink, books, and incidentals. In 1880, the fee was raised to $1.00 per month. The annual school term usually ended with a public examination combined with readings and recitations.

The Sisters of Charity, Emmittsburg, Md., were the first group of religious women to teach at the school. When they were withdrawn in 1920, the Sisters of Mercy were invited to staff St. Francis.

In 1994, the Sisters of St. Joseph were invited by the Pastor into the parish community, to assist in ministering to the people of God.

In 2002-2003, St. Francis Xavier Catholic celebrated its 125th anniversary.

In May of 2009, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School became accredited as an outstanding school by the Middle States Commission for Elementary Schools.

In July 2010, the first dedicated lay woman assumed the role of Principal.

On June 3, 2011, students, families, faculty, staff and parishioners said good-bye to St. Francis Xavier Catholic School’s location on High Street. On, Aug. 30, 2011, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School opened the doors of Xavier Center on Table Rock Road to continue ministering to the mind and hearts of our children.

When the 2016-2017 school year began, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School opened its doors to 215 students, grades PK4- Gr. 8, and 25 faculty and staff members. The student/teacher ratio is: 21:1; the average class size is 21. St. Francis Xavier Catholic School is home to 10 full-time classroom teachers and two full time assistant teachers; 12 hold BS/BA degrees, nine hold MS/MA degrees, 5 are certified teachers from the Lincoln Intermediate Unit. St. Francis Xavier Catholic School is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Elementary Schools.

Today’s students study religion, social studies, Spanish, integrated language arts, mathematics, music, physical education and attend library, art and music. Special programs include speech therapy, remedial reading, Title 1 Reading, children’s choir, yearbook club, student council, guidance counseling, remedial math, academic enrichment, instrumental music, peer mediations and technology club. Basketball, cheerleading, volleyball, intramural basketball and biddy basketball are all offered at St. Francis. New to St. Francis this year is the 21st Century Community Learning Centers federal after-school initiative. This program is free to St Francis Xavier Catholic School families. The after-school program provides a healthy snack, tutoring, homework assistance, academic reinforcement, STEM/STEAM, reading and writing, social skills and career development.

St. Francis Xavier Catholic School students have excelled in Science and Math. Students from St. Francis have competed and won 1st place at our Regional STEM K’nex Challenge and competed in the State STEM K’nex Challenge. Several 7th and 8th grade students participated in the Broadcomm MASTERS Middle School Science Competition. St. Francis Xavier Catholic School had the distinct honor of having one student place 1st in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Regional GLOBE Science Fair at the Goddard Space Flight Center and moved on to be one of two U.S. students to win the International GLOBE Science Fair. Winners of the International GLOBE Science Fair received a stipend to attend the GLOBE 2016 Annual Meeting in Estes Park, Colorado this past July 2016.

Each year, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School participates in the Pennsylvania Mathematics League. Students from St. Francis Xavier Catholic School once again placed in the top one or two in our region and in the top ten in the State of PA.

As with each year, St. Francis Xavier Catholic School students begin the school year sporting their school uniforms and arriving with their families to have the first family photo of the new school year. Following morning prayers, the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem, students begin to follow their teachers to their classrooms as parents and relatives exit the building knowing that their children are in the safe and caring, hearts and minds of the faculty and staff of St. Francis Xavier Catholic School. St. Francis Xavier Catholic School strives each day to live by its motto: “Educate them in the Christian Way of Life.”

Kelly Brainard is the St. Francis Xavier development director; submitted by Cumberland Township Historical Society editorial board.