HISTORY OF OUR LADY QUEEN OF HEAVEN SCHOOL
Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic School (OLQHS) was established and opened on October 13, 1958, under the direction of Reverend Adrian Van Hal, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish. The school began with twenty-four students in kindergarten, the class being held in the Knights of Columbus building.
On September 1, 1959, school opened with forty students in kindergarten and twenty-seven students in first grade. The school building, consisting of the pavilion areas, was opened in September, 1960, and the second grade was opened. The third grade classes were added in 1961, and the fourth and fifth grades were opened in 1962. At this time an addition to the church was built to house needed classrooms, a cafeteria, and a music room. A temporary building was also converted into four classrooms as the enrollment increased to three hundred students.
In the fall of 1963, the School Sisters of Notre Dame accepted the administration of the school, and Sister Elaine Schaeffler, SSND, became principal. Also during this year the school added sixth and seventh grades. The OLQH Early Childhood Center (ECC), located at 3901 Kingston Street, was opened at the beginning of this school term primarily to take care of the children of the OLQHS teachers.
A new building, housing ten classrooms, a large library, and an administrative section was completed for the beginning of the 1964 school term. At this time the eighth grade was opened. During the next five years, OLQHS grew to an enrollment of approximately five hundred students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The ECC grew to an enrollment of approximately fifty children from ages eighteen months to five years of age.
Through the efforts of Sr. Schaeffler, a faculty of dedicated professionals, and a program of high academic excellence, the school completed a comprehensive self-study and was accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in May, 1969. At this time the school became the only Catholic elementary school in the State of Louisiana to have such accreditation.
Sister Paulette Strakos, SSND, became the principal of OLQHS in August, 1969 when Sr. Schaeffler became coordinator of the OLQH Religion Program for students attending public schools. In May, 1971, after the opening of the new church, the old church was converted to a gym-auditorium, thus providing space for the development of a complete physical education program. Two years later, Sister Gloria Cain, SSND, was appointed principal of the school in August, 1973. The school enjoyed continued growth under the leadership of Sr. Gloria Cain. The kindergarten building was expanded in June, 1982, to provide a second kindergarten classroom.
In the fall 1983, Elizabeth Niekamp became the first lay principal. Ten additional classrooms and the computer room were added between 1984-88. In 1987, a third kindergarten was added. In the fall of 1989, the ECC was enlarged to accommodate infant care and the gymnasium was expanded to enlarge the boys' and girls' dressing rooms.
Keith Bartlett was appointed principal of the school and a part-time assistant principal was added in fall of 1990. In 1991, the ECC relocated to its present location, formerly the nun's convent, as OLQH Parish made room for the retirement center, Villa Maria. In 1992, a state-of-the-art science center with two laboratories was constructed to further challenge students to explore the sciences.
Mary Ann Moses became principal and Jennifer Bellon became full-time assistant principal in the fall of 1993. In 1997, a new building was constructed to house eight classrooms for students in grades first through third.
The fall of 1998 saw the appointment of Mary Anne Hipp as principal and the completion of a major construction project. This project included the fine arts building, cafeteria, third pre-K classroom and a new restroom facility. Mr. James Newman was hired as assistant principal in 2003. A fourth pre-K class was added in 2006.
OLQH Parish celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2007 and the following year, OLQH School celebrated its 50th year of Catholic Education. As OLQH School begins its journey into the next 50 years of Catholic education, JoAnn Wallwork is welcomed as school principal. Under the direction of JoAnn Wallwork in 2010, the administrative structure was changed. The new model for the organization of the school was suggested in the evaluation conducted by Independent School Management Consortium (ISM) which was conducted in 2008. The school was divided into a Middle School Division (Grades 5th– 8th) and an Elementary Division (Grades Pre-Kindergarten – 4th). Christi Jarreau became the first Middle School Coordinator and Chris Crosby was hired as the Elementary Coordinator. Jane Piraro took over for Christi jarreau after the first year. Their roles are to assist the principal and teachers in the daily functions and long range planning of the school. In 2015, Kelly Link DeMolle became Middle School Coordinator after Jane Piraro retired from the position.
Currently, OLQHS has approximately 700 students. The school houses three sections of pre-kindergarten and three sections of grades K-8. The faculty consists of thirty-one classroom teachers, principal, elementary school coordinator, middle school coordinator, guidance counselor, and directors of religious education, facilities and student activities, development and technology. Other faculty include a librarian, two physical education teachers,vocal/instrumental music teacher, vocal/handbell music teacher, two resource teachers, a Spanish teacher, an art teacher, a speech therapist, 2 computer teacher/ technicians and aides in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, special education and library.
The 2012-2013 school year saw the start of the Cornerstone Capital Campaign. The goal of the campaign was to build a new Middle School classroom building and to renovate and move all the students from the East Campus to the Main Campus. Ground was broken on May 2, 2013 for the new Middle School building. The Middle School and the renovated areas were completed in time for the start of 2014 – 2015 school year. The building was blessed and dedicated to Monsignor James Gaddy on October 10, 2014 by the Most Reverend John Glenn Provost, Bishop of the Diocese of Lake Charles.
The Cornerstone Capital Campaign was a great success due to the generosity of the Our Lady Queen of Heaven Community. The renovations were completed to the quads and science building and are now home to the classes which were located on the East Campus. The entire school is now located on main campus. The unification of the campuses has long been a dream and now is reality.
At the end of the 2015-2016 school year, the Early Childhood Center moved into the facility on the East Campus after a complete renovation of the existing classrooms and the new construction of a central office, kitchen and activity room was accomplished. There are two playgrounds that were also built and renovated for the use of the children who attend the ECC. The facility can now house up to 138 children from 6 weeks to 4 years old. The building was blessed on May 5, 2016 by the Most Reverend John Glenn Provost, Bishop of the Diocese of Lake Charles.
Monsignor Gaddy, the pastor, who led the parish and school for the last 11 years and is responsible for the major changes in the landscape of the school retired as the Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish on June 30, 2016.
Monsignor Daniel Torres became the new pastor on July, 1, 2016.