St. Mary’s Bryantown holds open house
101-year-old school highlights education for National Catholic Schools Week
This week was Catholic Schools Week, and the century-old St. Mary’s Bryantown Catholic School celebrated with a community open house Tuesday.
“It’s an opportunity where we can share our school with the community and the nation,” said Principal Sharon Caniglia. “We want to show all the good things we do here for children, whether
it’s academics, or spiritual devel- opment, or extracurricular.”
St. Mary’s and two other Catholic schools in the county, St. Peter’s School of Waldorf and Archbishop Neale School of La Plata, were recently recognized by the Charles County Board of Commissioners, which issued a proclamation recognizing Catholic Schools Week.
St. Mary’s, which first opened its doors in September 1915, currently has 275 students, which Caniglia believes is the highest enrollment in the school’s history.
The open house showcased classrooms for each grade, from prekindergarten to eighth. The school added a three-yearold pre-K class in 2015.
Science teacher Diane Cook- sey has taught at the school since 1975. She’s seen the school change and grow since then.
“When I came here, school didn’t start until after Labor Day,” Cooksey said. “Most of the kids were from Charles County, farmers’ kids. They came in, but you also knew a lot of the boys — and a few girls, but mostly boys — would be out a day or two that first two or three weeks picking tobacco. It was just ex- pected ... it was a much more rural group back then.”
Cooksey said she’s enjoyed the small, close community at the school.
“You know the families, you can talk to the families. You taught a brother or a sister or a nephew,” Cooksey said. “Some of them, I’ve taught their chil- dren, and I like that.”
Rick Panza, computer teacher, said the lab has 29 computers. Given there are 32 eighth grade students, however, it’s not quite enough.
“So, there is a group of stu- dents, that meets weekly, that is building computers,” Panza said.
Eighth grader Matthew Har- rer, who served as one of the guides during the open house, has been at the school since he began kindergarten.
“It’s been fun. At other schools, the kids might not get a lot of individual attention, but here, each teacher works individually with the students,” Harrer said.
Students engage in a number of extracurricular activities, including choir, strategy club and SeaPerch, a competitive under- water robotics program.
“We start by building a robot body out of PVC pipe, and then we design and build the motors, and solder the motherboard and put everything together,” Harrer said. “In the regional competition, which is coming up in March, there’s an obstacle course, a special challenge and some research.”
The St. Mary’s team has gone to the national SeaPerch com- petition for the past two years, Harrer said.
Kim Cox is a new parent at the school; her children started second and third grade at St. Mary’s this year after the fam- ily relocated from Upper Marl- boro.
“I really like the communication we have with the teachers. I can’t speak for the other grades, but the second and third grade teachers are really good with communication. The academics are very good, too,” Cox said.
Cox said her children are enjoying the new school.
“They really like the kids here, the kids are really nice. They always want to go to school here, they never complain about having to get up and go to school. My third grader enjoys the challenge. They have a rainforest coming up, and he’s really looking forward to that,” Cox said, referring to the annual rainforest display the school has put on for over 20 years. The public rainforest display is scheduled for April.
Jill Rison, art instructor at St. Mary’s Bryantown Catholic school, displays her classroom during open house Tuesday evening.
The school book store, held on the auditorium/cafeteria stage, during St. Mary’s Bryantown Catholic School’s open house Tuesday.
A winning science fair project at St. Mary’s Bryantown Catholic School.
St. Mary’s Bryantown Catholic School eighth grader Matthew Harrer shows off the school computer lab during its open house Tuesday.