History of St. Anthony Catholic School
The following is the second in a series of the histories of schools in the Monte Vista Historic District.
Adapted By: Kristen Carmona, Development Director 2015-2016
St. Anthony Catholic School (SACS) was established in 1907 by the Sisters of Divine Providence at the behest of neighborhood residents seeking to provide a religious education for their children. In that year, 20 students were enrolled at the first location: 315 W. Woodlawn. To accommodate the rapid interest and growth in the school, SACS moved to the second floor of the Gregory Home on the corner of Magnolia and Howard in the Fall of 1908. One year later in 1909, the current main building at 205 W. Huisache was completed with Frederick B. Gaenslen (1869-1941) as the architect. The new brick building carried a cost of $20,000. By Fall of 1910, enrollment grew to 110 pupils.
St. Anthony Catholic School continued to prosper, even through the difficulties before, during and following World War II. The school offered ROTC, drum and bugle corps, fencing, choral club, and extracurricular activities such as drama and opera, basketball, baseball. A “Mother’s Club” was the first parents’ organization of its kind in the area. A boarding program was also available. Tuition in the 1930’s was $5/month; music was optional for an additional $10/month, and boarding was $35/month. During the war, the military influenced the students’ uniforms. ROTC involvement and the service projects were encouraged. In 1944, the children of the school filled gift boxes containing magazines and new playing cards for the soldiers, and also sent used clothing for relief purposes for European children who were victims of the war. This culture of “service” has been the cornerstone of the school community ever since.
Despite the rapid growth through the 1970’s, enrollment declined by the early 1980’s. That coupled with the aging sisters, led to the decision to shut down SACS by 1985. However, a group of parents formulated a plan to keep SACS open. At the time, tuition was $160 per month for grades 1 - 8, and $175 per month for kindergarten. SACS enrollment was at 129, and the school found itself on good financial footing after a benefit performance by Jim Cullum and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band entitled “World Series of Jazz.” Without skipping a beat, in 1987 a non-profit Board of Directors purchased the school’s physical plant from the Sisters of Divine Providence. Things were on the up-and-up.
In 1988 SACS became affiliated with the University of the Incarnate Word, UIW, and was named one of their Brainpower campuses. The Katherine Ryan Early Childhood Program (KRP) relocated from UIW to the SACS campus, where it continues today. KRP was accredited by the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs in 1989, and serves two-and-a-half-year olds through kindergarteners. The expansion of this program allowed enrollment to grow to 210 in 1989. KRP continues to serve as a source of interest for prospective families and allows the school to experience growth year after year.
In the Fall of 2000, SACS expanded with the acquisition of two properties across the street from the main campus, the current Wittig Business Office Building (210 W. Huisache) and the green space at the corner of Huisache and Howard. By 2008, SACS commemorated 100 years of faith and education through a $5-million capital campaign. In 2012, the capital campaign allowed SACS to construct a state-of-the-art facility to house its middle school grades at Huisache and Howard. Complete with a multi-functional space, the Larry J. Benson Center for Academic Excellence brings together both the history and the future of the school in one building. The school has grown from 20 students in 1907 to over 400 students in 2016!
From abundantly blessed beginnings, St. Anthony Catholic School continues to exist 109 years later to be an institution dedicated to educating a diverse student body in the Catholic faith, Christian values and academic excellence.