Alexandria, VA – Back in 1869, the Basilica School of St. Mary opened its doors to 40 students – 20 boys and 20 girls. These days, 150 years later, the Catholic school is at capacity with 711 students and waiting lists for most grades except kindergarten. On the weekend of Oct. 18, the school celebrated its past with an anniversary weekend that included a family day and alumni dinners.
“It has always been a great representation of what the city is looking for in terms of a parochial school,” Principal Daniel V. Cinalli told The Zebra. “Right now we are just about maxed out with what our current footprint can hold. We have a waiting list on most of our grades. We’re hoping with the expansion we will be able to increase our capacity a little bit.”
The school, which has been at its current location since 1950, will undergo a $12 million expansion next summer. The building entrance will be renovated, elevators and handicap access ramps will be added, the school buildings will be linked by a large connector building, which will include a 3,000 square foot media center, and there will be a new tower dedicated to St. Mary.
Father Edward Hathaway, the rector of St. Mary’s Basilica, said that the school has grown by consistently instilling positive values in students. Incidentally, St. Mary’s was founded in 1795 and is the oldest Catholic parish in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“The important part of the faith is education,” Hathaway said. “It’s not just a secular school with the religion class added. It’s a gospel atmosphere, so you have people of faith who choose to teach here, parents who want the values and virtues that they want to form in their children, and we talk about God and have a biblical understanding of the world. People who have God in their lives seem to be happier and find peace and meaning.”