In November of 1911, two months after Father J.A. Corrigan's appointment to the parish, a resolution was passed to proceed with the plans to build a parochial school. He writes in his letters that "securing a site for such a school, adjacent to the little frame church, was extremely difficult because every lot had a house on it. Only with tantalizing slowness were these houses purchased by the parish, one at a time."
Finally, in the late fall of 1912, plans for an eight room school building were submitted by the architect E.J. Donohue. The plans were approved by the board and the contract was awarded to the Paul Steenberg Construction Company of St. Paul. Work began immediately with the hope that the school would be ready for the beginning of the school year in 1913. In August of 1913, Archbishop Ireland and Mother Seraphine along with the teaching Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet and local dignitaries toured the new school. It was then dedicated by the Archbishop and classes started on September 9, 1913.
Class of 1914
Within six years the student population reached 600 and additional space was necessary. A ten room addition was added to the rear of the original structure and the first classes were held in the new addition on November 2, 1922.
In December of 1924, another lot was purchased directly east of the school. At this same time, the board of trustees decided to buy any available lots on the block for future expansion. The school enrollment continued to rise and a third addition of four rooms was constructed in the spring of 1925. Another four room addition was completed in the fall of 1932 giving Saint Mark's school 26 classrooms and over 1,000 students.
In 1954 there were approximately 1,250 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Once again plans were drawn up for another addition. Construction of the new building began in September of 1955. The plans called for eleven new classrooms as well as a separate gymnasium/auditorium to be connected to the school by a tunnel under the alley. Classrooms in the new addition were occupied by the beginning of the school year in 1956 and the gymnasium was completed in the spring of 1957. This addition completed the physical expansion of Saint Mark's School even though the enrollment continued to climb. During the 1960-61 school year, enrollment peaked with 1,534 students.
In addition to schoolwork and studies, students at Saint Mark's were encouraged to participate in civic and parish activities including essay contests, athletics and fund raisers of many kinds. Funds were raised for numerous causes such as the Red Cross and Community Chest as well as War and Liberty Bonds. This tradition of promoting civic duties continues today through numerous programs at Saint Mark’s, including the annual CARE-a-thon event where students go out into the Merriam Park community to rake leaves and pick up trash, and repaint the storm sewers down by the Mississippi River, and visit the residents at the nearby Episcopal Home.) This year’s theme: "100 Years of Caring" will include Volunteer Coordinators reaching out to alumni and neighbors to secure 100 stories recalling how Saint Mark's students have impacted the community through service.
Today, Saint Mark’s continues to provide an intimate learning environment based on a strong curriculum with advanced learning opportunities delivered by an experienced staff, the majority of whom hold Master’s degree and have an average tenure of 12 years. The class size at Saint Mark’s averages 21 students who come from diverse backgrounds. Through its broad-based curriculum, Saint Mark’s students gain an appreciation for lifelong learning while developing leadership skills. All students, including preschoolers, participate in specialized art, computer, music and Spanish classes. School students have additional enrichment opportunities including the highly respected Mad Science program as well as weeklong intensive learning experiences at Wolf Ridge Learning Center in Ely, MN (sixth grade) and a trip to Washington, D.C. (eighth grade).
The mission of Saint Mark's School is to work in partnership with parents to prepare our students as lifelong learners with Catholic values who will grow spiritually, intellectually, and personally as responsible Catholic participants in the global society. Established in 1912, Saint Mark’s currently serves roughly 300 students and their families in preschool through the eighth grade.