St. Thomas the Apostle School in West Hartford is celebrating its 80th birthday.
Submitted by Diane Klingman, St. Thomas the Apostle School
St. Thomas the Apostle School, the first Catholic school in West Hartford, is celebrating its 80th birthday this fall. Constructed in 1937 with funds raised by parishioners of St. Thomas the Apostle Church, the red brick building located at 25 Dover Rd. still welcomes parish families today, as well as students from 16 surrounding towns.
The school opened in September 1937 with just three grades, but added an additional grade each year until 1943, when the first eighth grade class graduated. It transitioned to a PreK3 through grade 5 school in 1989, as part of an Archdiocesan restructuring of Catholic schools.
Today, more than 200 students are enrolled with an average homeroom size of 16. The small class sizes allow students to be fully engaged in the learning process with daily differentiated instruction in math and language arts, in addition to science, social studies and religion instruction each day. Teachers still practice the timeless traditions of teaching cursive handwriting and grammar, but also extend learning opportunities through the use of technology with iPads, SMART Boards and laptops. The religion curriculum has a strong emphasis on service, with students in every grade participating in outreach projects at the parish, city and global level throughout the year.
While many schools have experienced budget cuts that limit the arts and extra-curricular programming, St. Thomas the Apostle boasts a full complement, including music, art, library, world language, and gym each week. The science lab provides students in grades 3, 4 and 5 the opportunity to explore the world of science through hands-on experiments and projects. Nearly half of all students participate in the expanded music program which includes Suzuki violin, piano, band and choir. After school clubs are expansive as well, allowing students to extend their time with classmates to enjoy shared interests in sports, scouts, art, science, reading, and much more.
At 80 years old, the red brick school building looks newer than ever. Several renovations have taken place over the years, including the addition of a gym, a stage and four more classrooms. Recent renovations include: wireless capability throughout the building; security upgrades; a masonry restoration; and a new roof.
With all these changes, however, the school still honors the architectural integrity of the original structure, keeping the best of the design elements such as high ceilings and a row of large windows in each classroom. “As the current stewards of this historic building, we try to honor the old while we embrace the needs of our current students,” explained Principal Colleen DiSanto, who has been at the school since 1994, when she was hired as a fourth grade teacher. She was named principal in 2002. In 2016, DiSanto was awarded Administrator of the Year for the Archdiocese of Hartford.
A large 80th Birthday Masquerade is planned for Saturday, Oct. 21 at the home of a current school family in West Hartford. The school has invited all former and current members of the St. Thomas the Apostle School family to attend. For additional information or to purchase tickets to the event, go to www.stthomasapostlewh.org or call the school at 860-236-6257.