GREENVILLE—Our Lady of the Rosary School took a historic step when nine students gathered for the first day of classes in the school’s new secondary education program.
These six freshman and three sophomores are “The Founders” of OLR’s Upper School.
The name is a deliberate decision that reflects the school’s mission, said Thomas Curtin, headmaster. Calling it the Upper School is intended to remove associations with the term “high school,” which, the school website states, can conjure images of “an unforgiving social scene, and a culture that prioritizes sports and gadgets over tried and true education.”
Curtin said schools can run the risk of focusing on specialization instead of a solid, core education of the whole student, but OLR’s Upper School is “not intended to specialize but to humanize.”
The Upper School is the culmination of a years-long process that began when Father Dwight Longenecker, pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church, sought to create secondary education that was affordable and highly focused.
After a comprehensive planning period that included submitting budgetary and curricular plans as well as a feasibility study for diocesan review, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone granted permission to move ahead with the Upper School.
Curtin said grade-levels will be kept intentionally small, with 20 or fewer students.
“A smaller more focused program can produce a graduate who is more likely to successfully live out Catholic faith in college,” he said.
The school’s primary goal is the same as the Church’s aim: to raise saints. “God has his eye on the sparrow” Curtin said, and a small school environment facilitates this.
These small cohorts will also allow for highly differentiated instruction, which is one of the best aspects, said Meghan O’Hare, a founding ninth-grade student.
“I like that we can have things more individualized” than a larger class, Meghan said.
Her mother, Bridget O’Hare, echoes this sentiment, praising OLR’s “wonderful job of working with the child to promote their unique abilities,” and adding that teachers “foster the whole student.”
Meghan said the small student body also helps students “feel more like a family.”
This sense of community was integral to Father Longenecker’s vision for the school as “a consistent and safe environment” where teachers and staff can develop a real relationship with students and families.
The Upper School faculty said they also appreciate the close community. Jeff Pajak, who teaches literature and Latin and serves as the homeroom teacher for the new cohort, said he has enjoyed watching the bonds between students strengthen. He was pleased, for example, when students were given a place to eat lunch that the parish designed just for them. They referred to it as “our spot,” showing their sense of family is already developing.
By Gary Scott/Special to The Miscellany