St. Anthony School renovations to bring bright future

GREENVILLE—St. Anthony of Padua School has launched a capital campaign, “Weaving a Bright Future,” with the goal of constructing a new school to replace the current 55-year-old building.

They have raised $3.7 million in cash and pledges so far, and school leaders are now trying to raise $1.3 million needed to complete the project, said Franciscan Father Patrick Tuttle, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church.

McMillan, Pazdan Smith LLC, architects from Greenville, designed a two-story building and gymnasium complex. It includes a library, art room, nine classrooms, administrative offices and conference space, an assembly area, and separate playgrounds for pre-K/kindergarten and elementary students.

St. Anthony of Padua is one of two historically African-American Catholic schools in the Diocese of Charleston. The other is St. Martin de Porres School in Columbia.

Catholic education at St. Anthony started in 1951, when 60 children in kindergarten through fourth grade were taught in rooms on the first floor of a converted farmhouse.

The building also housed the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity of Lewiston, N.Y., who served the parish and school.

Classes moved into two tin buildings purchased from the Donaldson Air Force Base in Greenville, now closed, and in 1956 the current brick and cinder block school building on Gower Street was completed.

The needs of the school have grown and changed over the years, plus the old building has a variety of repair issues, including a leaky roof and deteriorating cinderblock.

Some classes are held in portable buildings more than 30 years old that have been remodeled many times, and there are not enough classrooms for the nine grade levels. The third and fourth grades and fifth and sixth grades share classrooms.

Campaign organizers say a new school will help St. Anthony maintain a strong learning atmosphere, with small class sizes and an emphasis on family participation.

Franciscan Sister Catherine Noecker, principal, said the community is proud of statistics showing 94 percent of children who attend St. Anthony go on to graduate high school, compared to a graduation rate of only 50 percent for children who attend area public schools.

The school currently serves 93 students in kindergarten through sixth grade. Many students are not Catholic, but they receive daily exposure to the faith and Gospel message through prayer, worship and in the classroom, Sister Catherine said.

“We evangelize and spread the Gospel every day,” she said. “The students know how loved they are by God.”

St. Anthony of Padua’s fundraising materials note that graduates of the school include doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, business people and public officials, many of whom still live and serve in the Upstate and other areas of the Southeast.

Noted graduates include Ojetta Rogeriee Thompson, a U.S. Court of Appeals Judge and the first African-American woman to serve on the Rhode Island District Court.

The school has prepared a YouTube video that describes its history, needs and vision of Catholic education. It can be viewed at