It was on September 17, 1906, just ten days after the celebration of the first Mass in the St. James parish, that St. James School opened its doors for the first time. There were thirty (30) children enrolled. Their ages ranged from five to thirteen. The first teachers at the school were five Ursuline Sisters from Mount Saint Joseph, Maple Mount, Kentucky, near Owensboro. St. James was the first mission accepted by the then new religious community. The first principal of the school was a truly remarkable woman, Sr. Ursula Jenkins, who served in that position for fifteen (15) years. She was much beloved by students and parishioners alike and was always widely regarded as the principal foundress of the parish.
The original St. James School was housed in a small frame building, which also served as a parish Church, located at the corner of Edenside Avenue and Bardstown Road. On Friday afternoon after school the building was converted for the purpose of celebrating Sunday Masses.
When the present Church was constructed in 1912-1913, the original church/school building was moved to what is now the current school parking lot. It housed the school program until the opening of the present school building in April, 1924. It was interesting, in view of the cost of the 1984 renovation, that the total bids for construction of the school amounted to $80,230 the same as in June of 1922 for the whole school.
We know on the soundest of scriptural grounds that, "by their fruits you shall judge the worth both of individuals and institutions." The fruits of our school are the thousands of young people who have graduated over the past 108 years, armed with the priceless gift of a Catholic education. St. James School has always been open to interested families and children of all religious beliefs.
In the summer of 1995 the school once again received a "facelift" in preparation for the new Monsignor Horrigan Child Development Center for three and four year old children. Classes on the middle floor included rooms housing a kindergarten, a three-year-old room and three rooms used for the expanded and growing four-year-old program. The library was moved to a newly established Media Center on the lowest floor where the former art room and grades 4/5 classrooms were housed. These two rooms originally housed the cafeteria until the "Baby Boomers" became school age children. Then, St. James was forced to convert this space into two classrooms, and students began bringing lunch every day. A federal school lunch program was revised, after almost thirty years of being without a lunch program, during October of the 1996-1997 school year.
Spanish culture and language was begun in the fall of 1996 for students in grades 5/6/7/8. In 1999 the plan extended this Romance language program all the way to the Monsignor Horrigan Child Development students.
St. James began a summer camp experience for students age five through twelve using the auditorium and other available space in the summer of 1995. This proved a successful venture and the parish realized a profit, which helped to stabilize the budget in the 1995-1996 school year. This service expanded to an all day daycare on some school holidays, Christmas holidays, and spring break for students preschool through grade six. Because of the success of the preschool program, a second classroom opened in 1996-1997, thus accommodating these youngsters with a separate three and four year old room. Growth and pre-registration demanded that this program expand further for the 1997-1998 term.
For the school year 2000-2001, a second room for three-year-olds was added thus having the middle floor classrooms devoted entirely to the early childhood program. The Kindergarten through grade 8 classes are all held on the top-most floor of St. James School.
A tutorial program for students in kindergarten through grade eight was begun in the spring of 1997 and continues to provide individualized, one-on-one sessions with qualified teachers.
St. James was granted $18,000 in the spring of 1999 for continued enrichment of the music program, expansion of the Spanish program from just grades 5/6/7/8 to include the students in Pre-K through grade eight, and for Family Builders. In the spring of 2000 St. James Administration received notice from the Archdiocese of Louisville Campaign for Excellence that the St. James Technology program would be the recipient of a $28,300 grant. A further grant of $1000 for professional development and $3686 was secured for the 2002-03 school year. The latter grant was used to computerize the library during 2002-2003. Grants for professional development continue to be sought after and received.
In September, 2006, St. James School celebrated 100 years of educational excellence with an all-school reunion attended by students who graduated as long ago as the 1930’s. It was a grand event with many memories being shared.
In recent years, St. James enrollment has stayed steady while the preschool and pre-kindergarten programs have flourished. Steps have been taken to increase marketing for both the regular school and preschool.
During the 2009 school year, St. James School developed a brand and five core values. Our brand is “Soaring Above”. Our five core values are modeling faith, embracing family, respecting diversity, differentiating instruction and celebrating tradition. In order to enhance students’ success and follow our core values, the school staff currently includes a special needs coordinator and a resource teacher.
By the end of the 2009 school year, all classrooms had interactive white boards. Projectors for the white boards are extended from the ceiling allowing teachers and students movement with little fear of damaging the white boards. The white boards were purchased with grants from the Catholic Education Foundation and funding from St. Brigid Church.
In past years, St. James' families have been awarded over $50,000 in financial aid. These awards come from the Catholic Education Foundation, School Choice and the St. James Financial Aid Fund. As the cost of education rises, there are still opportunities for families to receive a Catholic education due to the dedication and support of many agencies and individuals.