St. Mary Parish School • 108 McHenry St., Burlington
Compiled by Amy E. Taylor, using resources provided by St. Mary School, Burlington archives.
First school: In December 1860, three Notre Dame Sisters arrived to start a school at St. Mary Catholic Church, Burlington. School doors opened four days later to welcome a class of 110 children divided into two classes. Sister Superior Mary Alexandra taught German, Candidate Margaret taught English and Sr. Mary Walburga was in charge of cooking and housekeeping.
The school and convent were housed in a building located in the back of the church (located on the corner of McHenry and Jefferson streets). The sisters lived on the first floor and held school in the upper rooms. However, a year after the school was established, it was decided the building wasn’t adequate for a school and a convent, so plans were set in motion to find a better situation for all parties involved.
One year later during March 1861, the St. Sebastian building – the first church – opened as a school, and three more Notre Dame sisters joined the group with the hope of making a difference in the lives of the children. During this time, school was in session for 11 months out of the year, and it would continue to be that way until after the end of the Civil War, when the county fair would entice the older students to skip school in exchange for a little fun. In order to fix the growing problem, summer vacation was implemented so that all students could attend the fair before the start of school.
Current school: As St. Mary Catholic Church continued to attract members, the number of children attending the school also increased. A need for more classrooms soon ensued, and in November 1916, construction of the new parish school began. They dedicated the school on Sept. 5, 1924, with a new grade school on the first floor, and classrooms for the high school on the top floor. In 1936 the second church – the old stone church – was remodeled for primary grades. In 1955, a two-story grade school was built, and today continues to hold the main school.
Today, the school boasts 353 students ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade, with the campus sharing space with St. Mary’s Preschool and Catholic Central High School, in addition to St. Mary Catholic Church. The formal name of the parish is St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception Parish, but according to principal, Loretta Jackson, it is commonly known as St. Mary.