St. Rosalia Academy has seen change but continues to grow in Greenfield

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While Sarah Tonski's daily commute from Banksville to Greenfield is typically a blend of highways and headaches, her destination is a whole other story.

"This building is like stepping back in time," the principal of St. Rosalia Academy, 411 Greenfield Ave., said of the school that is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

In the former library sits a bronze bust of President George Washington awarded by the Pittsburgh Press in 1929 for "100% Enrollment, Washington Essay Contest."

On the second floor -- once the home of the school's teachers who were members of the religious order Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary -- is a vintage radio and record player in a wood console cabinet.

There is also a 1950s-circa original phone booth with rotary dial telephone in the hallway outside the recently reopened chapel in which Masses are held.

The academy, formerly called the St. Rosalia School, will celebrate its centennial with an 11 a.m. Mass on Nov. 18 at St. Rosalia Church, officiated by Bishop David A. Zubik.

At 6 p.m. Nov. 24, an alumni gathering and dinner will be held at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association.

Students have been engaged in anniversary events for the past year, such as burying a time capsule and collecting 100 cans of soup and 100 boxes of pasta for the local food bank.

The original St. Rosalia School was a makeshift building opened in 1903 and closed in 1911 after civil authorities condemned it and ordered it closed. The building, known to the community as the Lyceum, was razed in 1954.

The doors of the new brick school opened Feb. 3, 1913, to 361 students. A year later, the building was enlarged to include a high school for boys. When Central Catholic High School opened in 1927, St. Rosalia School restricted its high school to girls.

As the parish continued to grow, St. Rosalia High School and Convent opened in 1957, with the adjacent 1913 school building housing elementary grades.

In June 1971, due to declining high school enrollment, the last high school class graduated. Grades 5 and 6 moved to the high school building, joining grades 7 and 8. In 1979, a kindergarten opened in the building.

St. Rosalia School was renamed St. Rosalia Academy in 2002. In 2005, the remaining elementary grades moved to the high school building, leaving the 1913 building to parish use.

Today, the academy enrolls 193 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, with one class for each grade. The student-to-teacher ratio is 16 to 1.

Tuition for kindergarten through grade 8 starts at about $3,000. Financial aid is available.

Kathleen Medjimorec, who taught language and science for 32 years, said the biggest change over the years has been the move into the technological age with laptops, interactive whiteboards, computer labs and more.

Another change is the shift from nuns as instructors to lay teachers.

Janet Aland, 60, a teacher there for 37 years and whose family has four generations of alumni, said the school has more sports and clubs than when she was enrolled there.

Students also perform service in the community, such as through performances by the choir club.

"We're seen more by the wider community," Ms. Aland said.

Ms. Medjimorec said the closure of so many local schools has had a positive impact on Saint Rosalia in terms of population and diversity, with the influx of Latino students.

"It certainly opened the horizons of the neighborhood students," she said.

Mrs. Tonski said enrollment has increased every year for the past eight years and she expects that to continue to the benefit of the students, families and community.

"This area of the city is exciting and growing, and we're in the center of it all," she said.

Tickets for the Nov. 24 celebration are $60. Details: or 412-521-3005.

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Margaret Smykla, freelance writer:


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