St. Mary’s Bryan­town holds open house

101-year-old school high­lights ed­u­ca­tion for Na­tional Catholic Schools Week

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­

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.

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