‘Staying close’ makes school community strong

GREENVILLE — As Our Lady of the Rosary School closes in on its 50th anniversary next year, the staff and parent volunteers continue to work to maintain what they call the school’s “rich tradition.” Principal Mary Louque points to standardized test scores above the national average and a foundation of strong Catholicism as part of that tradition.

“We are welcoming and ecumenical in our attitude and our student population reflects the cultural diversity of the community, but all our students participate in Mass every week and in religion daily,” Louque said. “And we have great teachers, who truly have a gift for teaching and caring. I’m humbled to be associated with these people.”

Elizabeth Bannio is in Beverly Farley’s second-grade class at OLRS; her sister Savanna is a kindergartner there. Both profess to being happier than kids ought to be about attending school.

“Savanna loves it here,” Elizabeth said. “The teachers are always with her, and whenever she needs help, she gets it.”

Will Crooks, a sixth-grade pupil who transferred to OLRS this year from a public school in Kentucky, said that he is learning much more now — and he knows one reason why.

“These teachers stay closer to you and talk about things,” Crooks said.

His favorite subject is math, but he also gets to experience an array of offerings at his new school. All students take music, art and Spanish; they have a modern computer lab and classes in computer science. Advanced students may take algebra and Spanish for high school credit. And field trips are a big source of what the principal calls “exposure to the outside world.”

OLRS students travel to the mountains and to barrier islands every year, to apple orchards and to a working plantation. The first Communion class visits the Poor Clares monastery in Greenville as part of their sacramental preparation.

“We hold dances for the middle school students, and they spend a week in Washington, D.C.” Louque said. “We also have an oratorical contest, debate forums and essay competitions. Our instrumental band program put on its first presentation this year; we have a chorus and a Christmas pageant. This is a wonderful school. It’s an enriching place, and the children are happy here.”

It’s enriching for a visitor to see faculty and teaching assistants in uniform, along with their 235 children. The school is clean and the classrooms quiet, but there is an undercurrent of activity bubbling through the one-story facilities at OLRS. The faculty share exciting breakthroughs in the main office at the end of a busy day, and the impact of parental attention is evident everywhere. Louque is pleased to have excellent parental support, she said, along with a cooperative parish family.

“We’re finding that they care about the school, partly because Father Dac (Tran, administrator) put into place a positively brilliant mechanism for communication. He put me on the parish council and the president of the parish council on the school board,” she said.

Parish and school share the parish center, which doubles as the school cafeteria and gym. The parish school of religion uses the school classrooms for Sunday school; the local St. Vincent de Paul Society uses school facilities, as do other organizations, secular and religious. Louque says the building is in service day and night.

“It’s an integral part of the community,” the administrator said.

Our Lady of the Rosary School has one class in each grade, kindergarten through eighth. The student population is about 80 percent Catholic, and most of the faculty hold advanced degrees. Its campus is located just minutes from an interstate highway and 10 minutes from downtown Greenville.

The school’s reputation for well-rounded excellence is not a secret in the community it serves, either. Each year there is a waiting list for admission to some of the classes.