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1950s – St. James School

1950s – St. James School

In 1956 the school enrollment rocketed to 2,297 students and remained over 2,000 into the 1960’s, and there was still a waiting list. In order to serve the families of the parish, Mother Alice Marie, Principal (1957-1961), began conducting separate morning and afternoon sessions for Kindergarten through 2nd grade. 

Classrooms of 60 or more students are remembered, and the faculty was composed of 31 IHM Sisters and lay teachers.  Tuition was around $25, and family rates were available for larger families.  St. James School was the largest parochial school building in the state.  Even with the large teacher-pupil ratio, Saint James earned top ratings in surveys conducted by the Diocese of Richmond.  The large enrollment continued until the school applied for accreditation by the Virginia Sate Board of Education, which required a reduction in the teacher-pupil ratio.  Consequently, enrollment leveled off.

The Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) was founded in 1953 and gives vital support to the school.  The school bazaar, sponsored by the PTO, became a parish and community event and continues to this day. Drop-off and Pick-up was different in the 1950s.   One almost never heard the phrase “two-car family.”   Commercial buses helped meet the transportation needs of the school families.  Buses lined both Spring Street and Park Avenue each morning and afternoon.  As the primary grades (K, 1, 2) were in half day sessions, some buses needed to do two rounds each day.  Students served as bus patrols and street patrols at various corners near the school to assist walkers.  The Washington metropolitan community would host area patrols each year to a holiday movie outing in December and a Washington Senators baseball game at the former DC Stadium (RFK Stadium) in the spring.   When enrollment leveled off in the 1970s, the school purchased and managed a smaller number of buses.  Together with parent-provided transportation, these buses serviced the school until the early 1980s.  By now two-car families were becoming more common and transportation became the responsibility of the parents. Safety is always a primary concern for a school:  In December 1975, Bus #3 driver Mrs. Patty Kane wrote to Officer Jones of the FC Police Department commending John Hall, John Shaw, and Rocco Edivan for their “fine example of good patrols.”  A fire started in the school bus due to an electrical plug jarring loose causing “live-wires” to touch the plastic casing.  The three patrols stayed “calm and collective in putting up flares and reflectors perfectly. One patrol was helping the children off and the other directing the children on where to go on the sidewalk.   The third patrol took up his position in the front of the bus making sure everyone was out and assisted the small children to the rear….The situation was handled beautifully.”

March 29, 2017 marked the day that Mrs. Janet Haines served the St. James School community as our crossing guard for 50 years.  The entire school body, together with our priests and city officials, honored Mrs. Haines at a special program for her exemplary example of community service and caring for our children for half a century. When you see Mrs. Haines on the corner of Broad and Spring Streets, stop and express your appreciation to her for many years of dedicated service.