Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Spokane’s Assumption School: a consistent message of ‘home, family, faith, church, education’

Story and photo by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the Feb. 26, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

Assumption School, Spokane

Not even the last of the snow can dampen the enthusiasm of students enrolled at Assumption School, Spokane. (IR photo)

Assumption Catholic School is located in a scenic, tree-lined setting on Indian Trail Road in northwest Spokane. Currently there are 240 students enrolled in the school, from preschool through eighth grade. The school also has an Educare program.

Assumption became a parish in 1958; Father Ralph Schwemin was pastor. Most of the new parish’s 240 families came from fast-growing St. Charles Parish to the east. Many parishes established in those years built their school first; Assumption was no exception. The first part of the school was built in 1959 and Dominican Sisters from Kettle Falls came to teach the 180 students in grades one through five.

When the addition for grades six through eight was constructed in 1962, the school census jumped to 390. A kindergarten was added in 1980 and in 1997, a separate junior high wing for grades six through eight was built on the north side of the gym. The music department is also in this building.

The school has classroom “clusters” similar to the those at St. Mary Catholic School in the Spokane Valley. Rather than separating the clusters, however, as was done at St. Mary, these clusters were placed end to end. There is no central corridor and so to get from one group to the other, one must go outdoors.

The primary grades are on the west end of the cluster; the fourth and fifth grades occupy the cluster next to that, and the space that housed Assumption Church until the new church was built)is on the east end. That space is now the multipurpose room. The preschoolers can also be found in this area.

The recent snowfall did not prevent students from playing outdoors on the school’s huge, parent-built playground. Coats and boots and lots of running around were the order of the day as students worked off their excess energy during the noon break.

Students within the building were just about as energetic as those outside. The first graders showed off the tadpoles they were raising. The third graders worked on their cursive writing skills, but, unlike their parents’ school years, were also learning how to make presentations using Powerpoint computer software. Several students were doing computer research.

All the classrooms have computers and the school has a computer lab to help students learn technology in more depth. Assumption received a boost from the Gates Technology Program, which provides funds to schools to purchase classroom computers.

Sonia Flores-Davis is in her fourth year as Assumption’s principal.

“We have a nice blend of both parishioners and school parents,” she said. “There’s a nice integration with the parish and the school.” Parishioners participate in school events, she said, support the school’s fund-raisers and are available for volunteering when needed. Flores-Davis has a staff of about 30.

Judy Long, who is assistant principal, explained further. The school requires parents to volunteer 20 hours per week. “They go way beyond the 20 hours,” she said. “Our parents are very involved and we’re very fortunate.”

As an example, Long took the 28 eighth graders to Olympia for a lesson on civics, accompanied by 17 parents. The travelers visited state legislators and learned how the government process works. The trip also included a stop at the Science Center in Seattle. Long, who also teaches in the junior high, said the trip “is a great community event.”

Another example is the school’s lunch program. Assumption parents serve lunch one day a week, with food purchased from various restaurants on a rotating basis. The school has no cafeteria.

The school shares a music program with St. Mary School. There is a “Kids Korus,” a very active singing group that performs for various organizations and businesses in the neighborhood.

Senior citizens in the area are the focus for several events during the school year. The junior high serves them a dinner in the fall and they are provided with lunch during Catholic Schools Week. “It’s good for the kids to see seniors on campus,” Long said.

Like many Catholic schools, Assumption holds a dinner-auction – it’s coming up next month – to raise funds. The Scrip program is another way the school earns money. Restaurants and stores donate gift certificates to the program which the parents purchase at face value, with the school receiving a certain percentage of the amount as a donation. “This has grown by leaps and bounds,” Long said. “Father Mike Savelesky (Assumption’s pastor) has greatly encouraged it.”

Staff and parents alike praised Father Savelesky for his support of the school. “We’re extremely fortunate,” Long said. “He comes to visit in the classrooms and that’s good. A supportive pastor is one of the keys to a successful school.”

One emphasis to be found in Catholic schools is that of community service. The school as a whole participates in projects such as the recent “100 Ways in 100 Days” project, in which students collected items for the programs operated by Catholic Charities.

Individual classes also perform community service. The student council went to the St. Vincent de Paul store in December and wrapped gifts for the children who came to shop. The eighth graders clean at Immaculate Heart Retreat Center. The fifth graders regularly sing at two of the area’s nursing homes.

Kevin and Jackie Driscoll switched their two children from public school into Assumption. Jackie Driscoll said there wasn’t “a huge difference” between the regular curriculums of the two school systems, but she and her husband like their children to be able to pray in school.

Said Kevin Driscoll, who is a member of the school’s advisory council, “It’s the religious aspect and the promoting of values. It’s integrated with the values we have at home.” Students learn to give of themselves, “to give something back, which is also important,” he said.

The Home and School Association functions like a Parent-Teacher-Student Organization in the public schools. Marcy O’Connor is president and she spends many hours at the school.

“As parents, we are our children’s greatest educators and I love how we are welcomed at the school,” she said. Another important aspect for O’Connor is how “each teacher knows each child individually,” she said. “Their interaction with kids often goes beyond eight hours a day.”

Judy Carl, herself a product of the Catholic school system, likes the “total package” of Catholic education.

“It’s the philosophy that it takes a community to raise a child. We need small communities (such as Assumption) where all take responsibility for raising the children.” It all comes together in the school, she said: “home, family, faith, church, education and it’s constantly reinforced. Children get the same consistent message which I really appreciate. And I wanted my children to have that.”

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