By William T. Clew | The Catholic Free Press
HARDWICK – St. Aloysius School in the Gilbertville section of town is alive again, thanks to support of parents, teachers, St. Aloysius Parish, the Worcester Diocese and especially members of the McQuaid family, which has provided “bucks, brains and brawn” to bring it to life.
It was the parish school, according to Father Richard A. Lembo, pastor of St. Aloysius Parish and St. Augustine Mission. That ended in 1973 when the school closed, though the parish continued to use the building occasionally.
The new St. Aloysius School is not a parish school. It is a private, independent Catholic school that had its beginning when 92-year-old St. Mary’s Elementary School in Ware, in the Springfield Diocese, closed last spring at the end of the school year because of low enrollment.
But some parents and teachers, including the McQuaids, refused to let that be the final word. Charles McQuaid, an investment banker who lives near Chicago and who graduated from St. Mary’s in 1967, contributed seed money for the new school. He said the lessons he learned at St. Mary’s contributed to the ethic of hard work that has led to his success.
His sister, Roberta, a St. Mary’s alumna whose two daughters also attended St. Mary’s, said the group tried to rent the St. Mary’s school building, but the cost was too high. She said they also looked at the unused Ruggles School in Hardwick. The town was willing to rent it, but would have had to put it out to bid because it is a public building, she said.
At Father Lembo’s suggestion, they then turned to St. Aloysius Parish and its school building. He said the parish was excited that the building would again be used as a school. He celebrates Mass in the church at 8 a.m. Fridays for the school and anyone else who wants to attend.
Backed by the seed money, donations and tuition payments, the group began to clean, paint and otherwise renovate the old building during the summer. Mrs. McQuaid’s brother Daniel volunteered to do painting, moving furniture and other work. Another regular, Mrs. McQuaid said, is Dan Lawrence, a friend of the school, who has shown up twice a week since the project started to do whatever needs to be done.
The school continues to seek financial help from families, friends and anyone who wants to help. An anonymous donor has pledged $10,000 in matching funds for the scholarship fund which will result in a fair tuition reduction. Donations to the school will be matched until the $10,000 is exhausted.
The building is more than 100 years old. The rooms are big, with very high, so-called “tin” ceilings. There are six rooms and an auditorium. They had a few wooden desks, tables and chairs left over from the old parish school, Mrs. McQuaid said.
Worcester Diocesan School Superintendent Delma Josephson gave her support to the St. Aloysius project, Mrs. McQuaid said. She emailed schools in the diocese asking for help. And they responded.
Schools in Worcester, Webster, Uxbridge, Leominster and Gardner sent chairs, desks, tables, books, desk-top computers and cabinets.
But not everything went smoothly. Just before the very first classes in the brand new St. Aloysius Elementary School began, Mrs. McQuaid said, the school’s sewer system collapsed. That meant that the rest rooms could not be used.
But when the school opened for classes, it had what looked like the king of all porta potties; a large, gleaming white building with separate boys’ and girls’ facilities, lights, and running water. It was set next to the stairs at the front entrance.
That is gone now. The sewer line was repaired, and the indoor restrooms are back in operation, Mrs. McQuaid said. The official flush was done Nov. 28, performed by pre-kindergarten teacher Jennifer McNally, who had spent considerable time during the days before the repairs were done escorting youngsters 5 years old and younger out to the temporary facilities.
After St. Mary’s School in Ware closed last June there were 20 to 23 youngsters whose parents were committed to what has become St. Aloysius School because they wanted their children to have a Catholic education. That number grew during the summer. When the school opened there were 40 pupils at St. Aloysius, according to Mrs. McQuaid, director of the school. There are 15 in pre-kindergarten, 13 in kindergarten through grade 2 and 12 in grades 3 through 6.
Ms. McNally is the pre-kindergarten teacher; Kathie Knight teaches kindergarten through grade 2; and Lindsey Vadnois teaches grades 3 through 6. Pupils in kindergarten through grade 2 share a classroom, as do pupils in grades 3 through 6.
The academic support group includes Mary Carfagna, music; Jewell Novak, art; Mickey Novak, science; Nancy Mangari, Spanish, Samantha Grillo, gym and physical education. Loretta DiPietro, parish pastoral assistant/safe environmental coordinator, teaches religion. Others include Stacy Adams, pre-school aide; Carol Abrue, after-school coordinator; and Angela Mason, office staff.
The tuition for kindergarten through grade 6 is $3,800 a year. That is less than it was at St. Mary’s, Mrs. McQuaid said. The tuition for pre-kindergarten ranges from $2,000 to $4,300, depending on whether they are there Tuesdays through Thursdays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays or all five days.
The school day begins at 7:20 a.m. and runs to 2:05 p.m. Pupils may stay until their parents can pick them up until 5:30 p.m. at a cost of $5 per hour. Pupils come from Hardwick, Ware, Monson, Warren and Brimfield, Mrs. McQuaid said.
School officials are looking to the future, expanding to a grade 7 and hoping for a total enrollment of 60 to 70 pupils, Mrs. McQuaid said.
– Those wishing more information may email the school at firstname.lastname@example.org, view the website at www.staloysiuscatholicschool.com; and Facebook at staloysiuscatholicschoolgilbertvillema.