Students from across the globe blend at St. Peter

COLUMBIA — Bonnie Bardin, principal of St. Peter, provided the following information.  

History: St. Peter School is the oldest continuously running Catholic school in the diocese and the state. It was founded in 1852 by the Ursuline Sisters, who originally ran a separate boarding school for boys and girls at St. Peter parish.

Principal: Bonnie Bardin.

Number of students: Our enrollment is 150 students with a capacity for about 180.

Faculty: We have 11 full-time teachers and assistants and nine part-time teachers plus a part-time guidance counselor.

School motto: St. Peter is running a contest for students to come up with a motto and a mascot. We’ll have those in place for the start of our next school year.

Grades: K-4 through sixth-grade.

Hours: 8:05 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

After-school program: Early care begins at 7:30 a.m. and our after school program runs from 3:30-5:30 p.m. It includes many opportunities for students to participate in private piano, guitar and strings lessons, Tae Kwon Do, Computer Club, Girl and Boy Scouts, choir and tutorial programs. Next year we will add dance, drama club, chess club and a Challenger Program for accelerated learners.

School meals: This spring our parish will open our brand new Parish Life Center, which contains our school cafeteria and offers gathering space for school functions and PTO meetings. We offer healthy home-cooked meals provided by Shirley Nelson, who has served St. Peter’s with her Angel Foods Company for over 10 years.

School colors: Royal blue and white.

Sports: The students play intramural and church sports.

Let us brag: St. Peter’s is one of only two schools in the state that holds accreditation by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges, the highest accreditation available. We have held that distinction for over 40 years. Also, our school was designated a state landmark in 1978.

Foreign language: Spanish for all grades and Latin in sixth-grade.

Advanced classes: We are a school of the arts, so we have advanced music.

Facilities: We have a new parish life center with a cafeteria, meeting space and a place to hold school dances.

Biggest change over the years: This year we have been adjusting to a new principal after having Madeline McMillion at the helm for 14 years.

What sets us apart: There are so many things that make St. Peter’s a truly unique and remarkable school. We have highly qualified teachers, most with masters degrees and above; commitment to academic rigor; differentiated instruction to meet the needs of all students; a prime location in the center of Columbia; a wide offering of arts classes; family atmosphere and a community of stakeholders all working together. One thing that truly defines our community and symbolizes our greatest strength would be our diversity. Our students and families are from Africa, Asia, Korea, Mexico and India. They learn how to cooperate, work, play and pray together as one family.

Community projects: St. Peter is partnered with Harvest Hope Food Bank and we conduct a monthly collection of canned goods for them. We also work with the St. Vincent de Paul Society to help families in need at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Our Great Grands program brings senior citizens to the school once a week to help in the classrooms.  

Our parish: St. Peter, with Msgr. Leigh Lehocky as pastor. We also serve other parishes, such as Our Lady of the Hills and Our Lady of the Lake. In fact, we have students from 25 different zip codes.

Wishes for our school: We are constantly praying for a gym. That would be a dream come true. Our school also would like to continue making technological improvements.

One change we would make to our school: It would be wonderful to have a fund to cover emergency situations, such as our heat going out. We’d also like to have a history program for the sixth-grade that would allow us to take advantage of the historical resources in Columbia, such as the museums.

How we demonstrate the Catholic faith: We pray together as a community each day at 8:45 a.m. and celebrate Mass together on Mondays.  All of our students participate in the liturgy.

Our top awards or honors are: Two of our students won the top prizes this year in the competition to design the Christmas card for Providence Hospital.

Music/art programs: We are a lab school in partnership with the USC Graduate Program in Early Music Education, under the direction of Wendy Valerio, Ph.D. Graduate students teach music to all students each semester, strengthening our commitment as a school of the arts.

Average scores on the IOWA test: The composite scores for grades three through five are around 85 percent.  

What percentage of students are Catholic? With a 56 percent Catholic to 44 percent non-Catholic population, we represent an ecumenical blend of people of all faiths. Our students learn about cultures, customs and beliefs different from their own and are enriched by the experience.