Once upon a time in the history of Holy Family Cathedral School Academy of Arts and Sciences, 18 women taught 590 students.
"When we talk about class size, boy, in the 1920s, we had issues," laughs Principal Trish Spoerl.
A lot has changed since the school began 120 years ago. In 1899, the congregation that would become Holy Family Cathedral erected its first building at East Third Street and South Elgin Avenue. With a desire to also build a school for Native American children, they contacted Katharine Drexel, a Catholic nun and the daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia banker. Drexel founded two schools on the Osage Reservation and agreed to loan $1,500 in 1899 to establish St. Teresa’s Institute for Indian Girls, which was renamed Holy Family School in 1910.
The school operated out of the church until the current school building at 820 S. Boulder Ave. was built in 1920. At the time, Sisters of the Divine Providence from San Antonio taught first- through 12th-graders. However, the high school students moved to Bishop Kelley High School when it opened in 1960.
Today, Holy Family Cathedral School serves 3-year-olds through eighth-graders and has 130 students. "We have a diverse population," Spoerl says. "We’ve had children in our school from Iceland to Venezuela, from Sri Lanka to Burma. It’s a wonderful, beautiful group of nationalities."
In 2016, the school was accepted as an Oklahoma A+ School and "began the integration of the arts into all areas of curriculum," Spoerl says. "At that time, we made some drastic changes that were very positive for our school."
They hired full-time instructors for art and music and instituted a band program into the school day for sixth, seventh and eighth grades, becoming the only Catholic school in Oklahoma to offer a band program during the school day.
More change is coming. In the 2019-2020 school year, Holy Family Cathedral School will become the first Catholic classical school in its diocese. Catholic Classical Liberal Education is a student-focused approach that studies the relationship between body, soul and spirit and includes discussion of literature, poetry, art and historical events as a part of the anthropology of Christ.
"The result of all these integrated subjects now in our school will be to lead students to discover what is true, what is good and what is beautiful," Spoerl says.