By Dan Shine
St. Lawrence School,
(This was written in 2017; St. Lawrence School is still doing well!)
In May, 1895, the Reverend Jeremiah Curtin was named the first resident pastor of St. Lawrence Church. It was his fondest desire that there be a school for the children in the Parish; in September, 1917, his desire became a reality: St. Lawrence School was opened with a staff of two sisters of St. Joseph of Chambray. The brick structure was designed to contain eight classrooms, but initially only four rooms on the first floor were ready for use. The upper floor was temporarily used as a home for the Sisters until the small house used as a Convent was moved from the site of the present convent to Union Avenue. The new convent was erected in 1920 and additional sisters arrived each year as new classrooms were completed.
Over the years, St. Lawrence School has had an active Mothers Club (later to become Parents Club), a CYO, a Drama Group, and a Girls and Boys Brigade. As part of its ministry to the community, St. Lawrence Church has sponsored a Boy Scout troop and a Cub Scout pack for many years.
Today, Principal Paul DeFonzo guides a visitor through the school. The first floor of the front portion of the building is designated for students in grades kindergarten through grade 2, while the second floor of this section is designated for students in grades 3-5. Housed also in this section is a computer lab, meeting room, library, and an art/music room. The basement of this section has a science lab, instrumental music room, and the nurse’s office. The PreK program is housed in an adjacent building, the Parish Center, which also serves for the After School Program. An addition was built at the rear of the school in 1956 for students in grades 6-8. This section also houses an additional computer lab and a regulation size gymnasium/cafetorium.
Mr. DeFonzo explains, “We offer our students a rigorous, challenging curriculum, technology of all kinds: Smart Boards in every classroom, Turning Point Technology, Chromebooks, and web-based programs such as Lexia Reading.”
The classrooms are a charming blending of old and new, with woodwork that bears the patina of 100 years, and coat hooks for today’s students, which were once used by other St. Lawrence students, who are now grown to old age. Mr. Defonzo continues, “What sets us apart from other schools is a family atmosphere. Many of our students are with us for 8-10 years of their young lives. They have the advantage of starting in our PreK 3 or 4 program, and staying with us right through 8th grade! The students and their families, along with the staff, grow really close during this time. In addition to teaching our students the skills of today, we don’t overlook some of the more traditional things—like cursive writing, courtesy, respect, and reverence for a Higher Power. We are a Faith Based school, but we minister to the community, not just to our own Parish.”
St. Lawrence School turns 100 years old this September, and the people of West Haven join in celebrating a successful First Century!