Community & School

Dec. 16, 2004
Community & School
By Our Lady of Lourdes School staff
Our Lady of Lourdes School in Utica Combines Academic Excellence with Christian Values

Utica — Our Lady of Lourdes School in Utica has been a center of community life since it opened its doors in 1929. In celebration of the school’s 75th birthday this year, the students, faculty and staff shared a huge birthday cake. But they were celebrating more than a birthday. They were celebrating the sense of family that the school enjoys. The school’s reputation for excellence in education continues, along with its success ranging from addressing individual family needs to incorporating technological advances into the curriculum. As a regional school, Lourdes draws families from all parts of Utica and from ten outlying school districts. The school’s diverse student body reflects its welcoming spirit. Graduates of Lourdes move on to middle school well prepared academically and with a strong faith formation. Graduates frequently return to visit Lourdes, thanking teachers for their successful preparation for junior high. With this year’s incorporation of laptop use, the students will be all the more prepared.

A typical school day begins at 7:30 a.m. with the arrival of “Before Care” students. Parents who need morning child care are able to entrust their children to the “Before Care” program with supervision by school staff in the cafeteria, free of charge. Breakfast is available daily. By 8 a.m., principal Carol Polito is greeting bus students by name as they enter the building. Morning announcements are followed by a student leading the school in saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Often, special intentions are announced for which the entire school family prays. These are just a few of many examples of the pervasive sense of family at Our Lady of Lourdes School. Throughout each day, the care, concern, and effort given to the children by the faculty and staff are further evidence of the family environment. In conjunction with the Utica City School District, Lourdes offers the services of a school social worker, a Universal Pre-K program, remedial services, resource classes, speech and occupational therapy, and ESL classes on site. The music program consists of weekly instructional classes, instrumental and band lessons, and membership in the school/parish choir. Lourdes is the only elementary school in Utica, public or parochial, to have a full cafeteria staff with breakfast and lunch cooked on its premises. Even at the end of the day, more care is available at the faculty-staffed “After-Care” Program which offers fun, activities, and homework time. In addition to Before Care and After Care, Lourdes offers “No School School Days” as well as summer recreational and instructional programs.

The Our Lady of Lourdes School building is an integral facility in the community, hosting numerous community events and youth activities as well as school functions. Use of the building is often enjoyed by CYO, Irish Dancers, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts, to name a few. Events that celebrate the school family are held throughout the year. In addition to families’ joining together for First Friday and Holy Day liturgies, Lourdes embraces family events at school throughout the year. In October, Lourdes families celebrate with a Halloween Bash. In November, the fourth grade invites families to attend their Veterans’ Day tribute during which attending veterans are recognized. Just before Thanksgiving, families enjoy the Fun Fair. In December, sixth grade students create family Advent projects together. December also treats families to a Christmas performance and “The Holy Child” Christmas pageant. The new year brings families together at school for the annual Learning Fair during Catholic Schools Week. In the spring, students and families love the annual Sock Hop. One of the highlights of sixth grade is the Passover Seder that students share with their families as an extension of the Religion curriculum.

The library is the heart of the school, recently renovated and dedicated to Samantha R. Scibior, who died shortly after her graduation from Lourdes. Older students enthusiastically volunteer to read to younger students in the library on a regular basis. Many volunteer as library helpers as well.

Even with the constant use of this stately South Utica icon, the school would just be a building if not for the people within it, the Lourdes School family. This family includes the community as well. The fourth grade students participate in an intergenerational program each month with residents of St. Joseph’s Nursing Home. Parents, teachers, and students are actively involved with school-based outreach programs. Fifth and sixth grade students are trained as altar servers. They serve the daily parish Mass and school and weekend Masses at Lourdes or at their own parish. Fourth through sixth grade students participate in the Lourdes Children’s Choir, singing for school and parish Masses. The school staff members serve as lectors, Eucharistic ministers, choir members, and volunteers.

Our Lady of Lourdes is “Where faith shapes the future, one child at a time.” For students and staff, this is truly their home away from home, and where their faith will be shaped — to last a lifetime.

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