St. Mary's Elementary School to celebrate anniversary
On Sept. 8, 1952 ground was broken on East Seventh Street in Wayne for St. Mary's School.
Sixty-five years later, the school is still in existence and planning an anniversary celebration for Sunday, May 19.
The event begins at 1 p.m. with music by A Touch of Brass; open prayer and a blessing at 1:45 p.m.; special events at 2 p.m. and live music by Mike Geiler at 3 p.m.
Activities planned throughout the afternoon include bouncy houses, face painting, Tae Kwon do presentations, the Wayne Dance Company, Knights of Columbus bingo, and the St. Mary's School Choir and Band.
In addition, food will be available from The Cheese Life.
The public is invited to attend any of these activities.
Due to the efforts volunteer parishioners and Father Robert P. Hupp, who was pastor at St. Mary's Catholic Church at the time, much of the heavy labor for the school was completed by June of 1953, including the enclosing of the building, the installation of the furnace, cement floors laid in the kitchen and auditorium and desks for all the classrooms installed.
The school opened for the first time on Sept. 8, 1953 with an enrollment of 43 pupils in grades one through eight.
The school was originally staffed by four Benedictine Sisters from the Mother House at Norfolk.
"St. Mary’s has educated more than 800 students in the Wayne community over the past 65 years. We are a small school but we offer a BIG education serving students in grades PreK-sixth. We pride ourselves on our faith and family values. We offer the Wayne community an option of a strong faith based education rooted in the Catholic faith and tradition, providing excellence in education of the mind, body, and spirit," said Stacy Uttecht, who currently serves as principal of the school.
Throughout the 65 years many improvements have been made to the original school. In April of 1968 the first school board was formed. When the teaching staff went from four to three teachers, seventh and eighth grade classrooms were eliminated. Wayne State College students under the supervision of an art professor constructed new playground equipment. A Home/School Organization was formed and provided assistance to boost enrollment and aide teachers. A parishioner and the school children planted trees located next to the alley with trees donated by the Omaha World Herald.
An Education Endowment was formed in 1985 to provide financial stability for the school. A language arts teacher was added to the staff in 1987. In 1989 St. Mary’s Booster Club was formed with their mission being to raise money for the educational programs of the parish. A highlight was the Club’s annual Hug-A-Spud fundraiser held in March. In 1990 the kindergarten classroom was moved into St. Mary’s School basement, which was previously the parish kitchen. In 1992 Little Lambs Preschool was added to St. Mary’s to provide children the opportunity to begin a Catholic education. The library became a language arts room and library/computer lab in 1998. In 2001 Little Lambs Preschool for three and four year olds was added and the four and five year old program became a pre-kindergarten.
In 2003, which was the 50th anniversary, the school had 36 children enrolled in the K-6 program. The classrooms included kindergarten, first and second grades, third and fourth grades, and fifth and sixth grades. Preschool and prekindergarten were also held in the school basement.
"Within the last three years, through a grant with the Archdiocese, the internet infrastructure was all completely redone. The “computer lab” is no longer a thing as now we have chromebooks for students in grades 4-6 and Ipads for students in grades K-3. These are completely portable as the students are able to take these into their classrooms and use these in their classes for research projects, online math and reading programs, and connecting with sources outside of the four classroom walls without having to leave the classroom," Mrs. Uttecht said.
"We have implemented Blended Learning with the support from the Catholic Schools office. Blended learning is using technology to individualize learning for each students. We have different programs available for students to use whether it be in math or reading and the programs are adaptive for each student. It finds what the students' needs are and focuses on those areas. The teachers are able to use the data garnered from these programs to make curricular decisions when doing lesson plans and planning out their week," she added.
We have also implemented new phonics and math programs that better meet the standards in our Archdiocesan curriculum which also aligns with the Nebraska State standards. Our 4th grade students just took the spring math MAP (Measure of Academic Progress) assessment and their average score was above the score of a typical end of year 5th grade student.
During the 2018-2019 school year, with assistance from Mary Kay Hasemann, a St. Mary’s School Band was formed for fifth and sixth grade students. Previously, those students had traveled to Wayne Community Schools for instruction.
"As for the physical structure of our building, the bathrooms were completely redone in 2018 and the classrooms were painted. Carpet was laid in all of the classrooms and blinds were also installed through a generous donation from a parishioner and funds from the St. Mary’s Booster Club. Plans are being made now to paint the basement and redo the flooring this summer and to add ceiling fans to each classroom," Mrs. Uttecht said.
Currently the school has four teacher teaching in combined classrooms with a total enrollment of 51 students. In 2006, the enrollment was at 13 students; in 2011, there were 22 students and in 2014 there were 30 students.
"We have seen a steady increase in enrollment in the past 12 years. The school serves students of all faith denominations. At the present time, 15 percent of the students are non-Catholic. We also have diversity in the cultural makeup of our enrollment," Mrs. Uttecht said.