History of St. Francis of Assisi School

On September 8, 1948, the first parochial school was opened in St. Albans. It was conducted by the Sisters of Poor Child Jesus, who came from Parkersburg at the invitation of Reverend Hilary Liehr, O.F.M. The sisters arrived to teach in classrooms set up in a renovated parish hall that had at one time housed USO functions during World War II. Father Joe Gillian, parents and members of the parish built walls to section the former hall into two classrooms and a cafeteria. The first and second graders sat at tables and chairs while grades three through six used “envoy” desks. Sisters Edeltrude, Mary Aquinas, and Clare Antoinette were the three who pioneered the opening of the school.

Fifty-six pupils of St. Francis School assembled in front of the building for a dedication of the school. After the dedication, members of the Parent-Teacher Association guided visitors through school. In the first year, only grades one through six were taught.

In 1952, Bishop John J. Swint established St. Francis of Assisi as a parish and appointed Father Joseph Wanstreet as the first diocesan pastor of the growing community. Bishop Swint donated $25,000 to purchase a new rectory and updates to the school. Also at this time the school added seventh and eighth grades making the school range from grades kindergarten through eighth with over 300 students.

A $112,500 addition to the school in 1965 gave the school four new classrooms and an auditorium. However, because the old church had grown too small for the steadily increasing parish, the auditorium was converted into a church and it is still being used in this capacity. Over the years various improvements have been made to the school including a gym, an art room, a science lab, a computer lab, playground equipment, air conditioning units, new windows and a remodeled church.

At one time, the enrollment at St. Francis was 405 students. During the late 1960’s tuition of $150/per child was initiated, which was difficult for families with multiple children to afford. The last of the nuns left after the school year 1972-73. Mrs. Alice McClung became the first lay principal of St. Francis of Assisi School. During this same time 7th and 8th grade classes were eliminated and students wanting to continue their Catholic education moved on to Charleston Catholic.