Sunday, January 22, 2012

Nothing “Old” about Old St. Mary’s School in the South Loop

Oldest in the City
For residents of the South Loop, Old St. Mary’s Church on S. Michigan Ave. is a local landmark. But did you know that OSM’s is the oldest Catholic congregation in the city? The congregation formed in 1833 (as Saint Mary of the Assumption) and the original church was located on the south side of Lake St. In 1846, the church established the first Catholic grammar school in Chicago.

Establishing Roots in the South Loop
Snow boots neatly arranged outside a preschool classroom
When the church relocated (after many years at various city locations and a history that includes the Great Fire of 1871) to 1500 S. Michigan Ave. in 2002, young families in the emerging South Loop wanted their children to have access to a faith-based education. In 2004 Old St. Mary’s School opened its doors, with Barbara Spaniol-Smith as its first principal and teacher. The first preschool had 18 students. As the South Loop grew, so did the young families attending OSM’s church. With that growing population, the need for a new and larger school became necessary.

A Complete Elementary School
In the summer of 2010, construction of a new school began. It was completed in time for the 2011-2012 school year. According to current Old St Mary’s School principal, Mary Lee Calihan, the school now serves 259 students. Grades include preschool through sixth grade. According to Calihan, additional grades will be added each year until the school is a complete elementary school through the eight grade. The school has a five-year plan that includes knocking down the old school facility south of the church to build more classrooms and creating a junior high.

Modern Facilities
Students learn weather-related vocabulary words
We took a tour of the OSM’s facilities at 1474 S. Michigan Ave. recently. The school is bright, clean, and technologically up to date. Each class is equipped with SMART interactive white boards and students have access to laptop computers. As of this writing, the school is working on producing its own student-lead TV news program, in a small studio located at OSM’s.

Neighborhood School

OSM’s aims to be a vibrant part of the South Loop and encourages its students to give back in service to their community.OSM’s is a neighborhood school with approximately 75% of its students within walking distance, according to Calihan.

For more information on OSM’s, please visit their Web site and find them on Facebook. Below is the mission statement from OSM’s school Web site.

Our Mission

Old St. Mary’s Catholic School is dedicated to educating the children of its growing parish by:

  • Providing a solid foundation in the Catholic faith, within the context of a challenging academic program, one that takes advantage of all of the cultural opportunities available in the city around us.
  • Complementing the role of the family in nurturing a strong sense of dignity and self-worth in each child.
  • Developing an appreciation in every child of their connection to others by fostering a sense of concern and a commitment to service.
  • Encouraging habits that build strong minds in healthy bodies and that nurture secure and poised individuals who will be ready to meet the challenges of the present and future.

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