Holy Family School marked its 40th anniversary on Tuesday with an all-school assembly that featured a prayer, a ceremonial ribbon cutting and the reading of a “Holy Family School Day” official proclamation by Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder.
“Forty years is a long time for a little independent school to have existed in today’s environment,” retired teacher Annette Bagley of Lacey said after the ceremony. “And with the prayers, and grace of God, it continues.”
The private Catholic school, which is affiliated with the Archdiocese of Seattle, has a little more than 80 students enrolled this year in pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, according to administrative assistant Virginia Baker.
The majority of its students are from Thurston County, but the school also draws students from Lewis, Pierce and Mason counties, said principal David Stone. About 25 percent of students have parents stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, he said.
“We think of ourselves as more of a regional school,” Stone said.
Holy Family opened in 1974 with 24 students in a remodeled house on Sixth Avenue in Lacey. According to historical information provided by school officials, classes were held in the house’s laundry room, dining room, three bedrooms and living room, and the school’s office was housed in the kitchen.
By the school’s third year, its enrollment had more than doubled. In March 1977, Holy Family moved into its nine-classroom school at 2606 Carpenter Road SE.
“The move to new and larger quarters was accomplished with difficulty,” an Olympian newspaper story stated about the occasion.
First, the Thurston County Planning Commission declined to approve the school’s move to property that bordered Martin Way that was donated for a new site. Then, a large tree fell the wrong way and crashed through a portion of the already-roofed building at the new school, according to The Olympian story.
The school’s enrollment numbers have gone up and down over the years, Bagley said. It hit an all-time high of 180 students during the mid- to late-1990s, Baker said.
Like many private schools, Holy Family experienced a significant drop in enrollment when the economy took a nose dive, Stone said. Enrollment has gone up the past three years, and school officials would like to see it continue in that direction, he said.
“We appreciate each year. ..,” Stone said. “We can always use more students.”
Parent Corrine Farmer said she likes Holy Family’s tiny class sizes, and its high level of parent involvement. Parents are required to volunteer 30 hours a year, although most log in many more hours than that in the classroom and at the school’s fundraisers and other activities, Stone said.
“It’s been a great school — like a little family,” said Farmer, whose daughter Danyel, 13, is in eighth grade. “I love it. This is my best investment ever.”
The school’s tuition is $5,900 a year, and school officials try to work out arrangements for families who can’t afford it, Stone said.
Baker said she and her husband wanted their two sons to attend the school so badly their family led a fairly frugal lifestyle. “We drove older cars; we didn’t go on a lot of vacations,” she said. “We didn’t go out to eat a lot. This was just more important.”
The school has a staff of about 20 teachers, office staff and classroom aides. The average student-to-teacher ratio is 10 to 1, Stone said.
“If you have any questions in class, it’s like a second, and the teacher is there,” said seventh-grader Emily Forbes, 12, of DuPont, whose four siblings also attended the school. “I love it because I get to know the teachers so well.”
Sixth-grader Joe Oczkewicz said he likes that the school caters to a student’s specific academic needs.
He said he thought the 40th anniversary celebration was an exciting way to kick off the school year.
“It feels like it’s going to be a good year,” Oczkewicz said.