By KATHY WINDSOR
ROCK HILL — Ask any parent at St. Anne School in Rock Hill and they will tell you it’s not just great religious training and academics that makes the school special. Students get a course in the Christian community 101.
Since its beginnings in the early 1950s, St. Anne School has nurtured children on the importance of living a Christian life every day.
Teachers and administrators teach by being good role models and children learn by spending time with adults who instruct them during the week and worship beside them on Sundays.
“We let people know up front that the religious training is based on Catholic church teachings,” said Fred McKay, St. Anne’s new principal.>p> “Definitely our number one focus is on our religious and spiritual formation,” he said. “Students go to Mass, have service projects in the community or here at school. The emphasis here is the building of a Christian person.”
Its beginnings were small. In 1951, St. Anne’s opened its doors to offer kindergarten and first grade classes. The school was operated by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of West Chester, Pa. from 1958 to 1992.
St. Anne’s School dishes up a good slice of Christian training and education from 4-year-old kindergarten to eighth grade.
The student body is 60 percent Catholic, drawing from neighboring York, Chester, Lancaster and Fort Mill. At least two students hail from Charlotte, N.C.
The curriculum is strong, providing students with educational opportunities in reading, language arts, math, science, social studies, health and physical education, art, music, computers, Spanish and journalism.
And like many Catholic schools these days, not all of St. Anne’s 36 faculty members are Catholic, and all are laity. About 40 percent of the student body is composed of non-parishioners. The school’s strongest asset is the sense of community, McKay said.
“I think the amazing thing is the family involvement,” he said. “We try to emphasize the family as the core unit of teaching. Education begins at the home and what we do here is a continuation of that teaching they receive at home, both in religious as well as academic and social skills.”
In addition to parental involvement, many faculty members are also members of St. Anne parish, cementing a community of children and adults of the same faith. Children see their teachers regularly at church functions as well as school.
Students view their instructors as human beings who practice Christianity, not just teach about it.
And it’s religious instruction that compels Marie Bott of Rock Hill to send her children, Katie, 13, and Chris, 9, to St. Anne. Both Bott and her husband attended Catholic schools and are intimately familiar with the influence of the spiritual side of education.
“I want my children to know what it means to be a Catholic,” she said.
Bott sees teachers taking collections for disadvantaged children, teachers lending shoulders to cry on, and instructional time that includes God, discipline and responsibility.
“Little things that we are called to be as Christians are the things that I saw in this school,” Bott said.
Bott regularly volunteers at the school and served on its school board from 1989-1992.
“The teachers are special because they aren’t getting public school salaries,” she said, ” I think they are called to teach in Catholic schools and give 110 percent.” she said.
St. Anne School will be starting the new millennium in a new home. And that new building won’t be built a minute too soon. The school is bursting at the seams. The new facility will have a gym, cafeteria, library and should be completed next year.
“Our biggest challenge is managing the growth we have been seeing the last five years,” McKay said.
In 1992, the school added a second section of the first and fifth grades. Two years later, the school began its middle school program by adding both seventh and eighth grades.
St. Anne’s also usually has waiting lists for its kindergarten programs yearly.
With an enrollment of 335 students, administrators plan to add another sixth grade class. Officials must manage this growth explosion while still offering quality academics, McKay said.