In October of 1990 Ste-Jeanne d’Arc School celebrated its 80th anniversary. For the occasion the late Marguerite Lyons, former teacher at this school who later became a reporter for the Lowell Sun, the local daily newspaper, undertook the herculean task of documenting the history of the school. Her detailed work of epic proportion that answered the five W’s of journalism appeared in the souvenir program published for the occasion. It is from this publication that we have culled most of the information that follows.
From its very beginning, Ste-Jeanne d’Arc school was a first in the sense that it is the only Catholic school in the city that was not part of a parish when founded. It was established to meet the needs of the large Franco-American population of Pawtucketville whose children, until then, had to walk the long distance to attend St. Joseph’s School for girls on Moody Street or le Collège St-Joseph on Merrimack Street, both across the Merrimack River.
On opening day in 1910, 3 teachers welcomed 130 students. Sister Marie Arthur and Miss Ernestine Alexander taught the 80 girls and Sister Ste-Solange taught the 50 boys. It was at the request of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate who served St-Jean-Baptiste parish that the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa, also known as the Grey Nuns of the Cross, came to Ste-Jeanne d’Arc school. Their schoolhouse located on Fourth Avenue had two classrooms and each year classes and faculty were added to meet the needs of the student body.
In 1921 the authorities purchased the Moody Street school from the City of Lowell. The newly acquired building provided for classrooms for 300 girls and the 163 boys remained at the school on Fourth Avenue.
Ste-Jeanne d’Arc officially became a parish in December 1922. (It was suppressed by the Archdiocese of Boston in 2004.) Until 1929 the sisters who taught at Ste-Jeanne d’Arc were still lodging across the river at St. Joseph’s Convent. A family house at 843 Moody Street became a convent for the dozen or so sisters.
In 1929 there were 365 boys in eight classes at the Fourth Avenue school and 376 girls in six classrooms at the Moody Street school. The following year enrollment reached 800 and eighth grade students had to attend St. Joseph’s schools to complete their elementary education. Two years later it was decided to add two eight grade classes to the parish school and Miss Lyons was transferred from the Moody Street school to teach the first eight grade boys’ class.
The first graduation exercises were in June 1932 and diplomas were awarded to 26 girls and 18 boys.
Enrollment in 1935 exceeded 900 students with a faculty of fourteen nuns and seven lay teachers. The following year, 1936, three Marist Brothers augmented the faculty. The Brothers were there until 1946.
The 1952 school year saw its beginning in a brand new , modern two-story building ,located at 68 Dracut Street, that was the envy of every other school in the area. A significant change occurred in the late 50s when the “all-boy” “all-girl” classes were abolished in favor of co-ed classes.
Enrollment in 1961 rose to a record-breaking 1012 students, 92 of whom were in kindergarten. Although unable to maintain this historic figure the school continues to provide a quality education for its students.
In 2013 Ste-Jeanne d’Arc School was designated as a “Bright Spots” School by the Catholic Schools Foundation and the Archdiocese of Boston. A “Bright Spots” School, according to their web site, is one that excels in academics and makes available programs that make the school “a Bright Spot” on the curve of education. This distinction is accompanied by a significant financial aid program to attract new students. That same year, Ste-Jeanne d’Arc was named a National Beta School of Distinction by the National Beta Club in recognition of its commitment to academics and student preparedness for college and career readiness.
Ste-Jeanne d’Arc opened the 2018-19 school year with a staff of 23, 2 Sisters and 21 lay teachers and the introduction of a new kindergarten program for three-year olds.