Our school began in 1893 in a small building on Shaw Avenue in Elsmere, opposite the church. For the next six years the education of the students was given by Mr. R. Renikins, Mr. Peter Berberich, Mr. Otto Fritz, and Miss Belle Pratt.
It was in 1899 that the pastor of St. Henry Church, Father Kolbe, engaged the Sisters of Saint Benedict (Sisters Martina, Camilla, Christina and Josephine) from Covington to take over the charge of the school. On Sunday, August 27, one month before school was to open, the church burned to the ground but the schoolhouse was saved. However, the school house was no longer suitable for holding classes, so Father Kolbe asked a parishioner, Mrs. Morelli, to give over one half of her home to the Sisters of Saint Benedict, and the parish rented a little cottage in the rear of Mrs. Morelli's home for a schoolhouse. School reopened in September of 1899. Daily Mass was offered each morning in the living room of the Sisters' house, and the children were given religious instruction as well as instruction in other subjects.
In 1900, on May 20, the corner stone was laid for the new church building that was to serve a threefold purpose. It was a church upstairs, and classrooms and living quarters for the Sisters downstairs.
The congregation slowly but steadily increased, and foreseeing the future needs of the parish, Father Kolbe, with the help of friends, purchased four lots adjacent to the church property. On July 7, 1916, Father Bealer became the pastor of St. Henry Church, and soon transformed the four lots into a playground for the children. At this time the school consisted of eight grades, with two grades in each room on the opposite side of the hallway from the Sisters' quarters. Four nuns taught religion, math, reading, geography, history, spelling and penmanship. Recess for the students was fifteen minutes. The children played baseball, and also had a Maypole on the playground. Students daily attended Mass and recited the rosary.
Because of ever-increasing numbers, it became necessary in 1921 to use the Sisters' apartments for classrooms and construct a separate residence for the Sisters.
In 1927 there were more than thirty students in first grade. At this time the entire school was taught by the Sister of St Benedict. In 1929, it became necessary to build a two room frame schoolhouse between the church and the rectory. This new two-room school building was increased to four rooms in September of 1933. The year 1933 was also the beginning of our high school with one grade increasing to four grades in 1936.
The parishioners were always willing to sacrifice and do all they could to keep St Henry School going. They were truly a committed parish in regard to Catholic education, and most parishioners felt an obligation to send their children to St. Henry School.
In the 1940's, grade school classes were held in an old gray frame building where our elementary school now stands. The children enjoyed playground equipment consisting of a slide, a large swing set, and a merry-go-round. The desks in the classrooms were on runners and had inkwells on top. The Nuns sold candy and lunch tokens to the children in the morning, while students did written seatwork. Children were permitted to walk home for lunch. All children attended daily Mass and after Mass they were taught religion using the Baltimore catechism, and a separate Bible history book. Other subjects taught during the day were reading, spelling, English, history, geography, science and penmanship. Occasionally art and music were included.
In 1949, a new school building became necessary. St. Henry School now had twenty-nine rooms to use and a gymnasium. We also had a kindergarten taught by Sister Mercedes. All students were given instruction in self-contained classrooms.
In the early 1950's one lay teacher, Miss Wanda Fischer, who married the following year and became Mrs. Yost, was hired to teach 6th grade.
In 1956, there were twenty-five nuns who served on the staff of a growing St. Henry School. Our school was fortunate to have a strong volunteer effort from parents. We especially had a strong, hard working and deeply committed PTO to provide our school many extras.
It was in 1958 that the pastor, Monsignor Egbring, asked the president of the PTO to begin a school book rental program. With $1,500.00 from the organization and $5.00 for book rental from each family, another program was launched to benefit the children. During the summer, mothers would gather to clean and repair books for the coming school year. This working together built many strong friendships among the parishioners and surely kept the mission of education uppermost in people's minds. That same year the PTO asked Mrs. Bates to temporarily take over the cafeteria - She obliged and retired 33 years later.
In the early 1960’s due to high enrollment and not enough classroom space, it became necessary to drop our first grade. Those children attended the local public school.
This was a common practice throughout the diocese.
We had no diocesan teacher pay scale until 1974. Instead the salary was determined by the pastor. In 1958 for example, the lay teacher of a second grade class of 64 children received $1,800 a year. That $1,800 in 1958 went up $100.
In the 1950's and 1960's the classroom teacher taught every subject including music, art, penmanship, and much later – physical education. The lay teachers worked with the Sisters selling candy at recess and shared playground duty in all kinds of weather. Girls changed from a navy blue jumper, which they began wearing in 1927, to a plaid skirt in the 1960's. It was common to have fifty or more students in a room with one teacher, and during the 1960's St. Henry School had four classes of each grade level. Some of the classes were held in the basement of the gym building because of the large numbers. Parents were really committed to Catholic education! In 1964, our enrollment of 1,105 children was the largest in the Covington diocese. The next year we had three fewer students, 1,102. Once again an apparent need for more space was presented to the parish, and the construction of the school building at the top of the lot began with the cornerstone placed in 1964 to accommodate the students. When this new building opened for classes in September, there were four eighth grade classrooms on the top floor, four seventh grades on the first, and three sixth grades, one fifth and one-fourth grade in the basement. Our library was contained in one small area used today by our janitors for storage. The teachers had a card table in the boiler room that housed an occasional jar of peanut butter and crackers for recess. We also had a small bookstore built in the hallway of the basement. The faculty in 1964 consisted of twelve sisters and fourteen lay teachers.
In 1973, the religious faculty numbered five and the lay faculty fifteen. The number of religious sharply decreased so that by 1983, St. Henry School employed one religious educator and twenty-one lay teachers. During the 1970's our school began a new trend of grouping children according to ability in the homeroom and some teachers began to departmentalize in reading and math. By the end of the 1970's grouping students according to ability no longer seemed prudent, and the classes were again mixed.
In the early 1980's teachers, for the first time, were given medical coverage and in 1984-85 school year a retirement benefit was given to full and part time personnel. In 1984 St. Henry Parish Board of Education elected to hire a lay principal, Mr. Philip Gessner. Under his leadership, our enrollment grew as we began to rebuild our kindergarten and offer two sessions a day to five-year-olds. Our library, under Mrs. Scheben's direction, also grew with new quarters and the largest selection of books found anywhere in an elementary school. In 1993-94 air conditioning was added to the library and computer rooms. Our students from K through 8th grade had regular music classes each week for the first time, and students in grades 5 and 6 had the opportunity to join Chorus. Working with the faculty, the teachers chose the new textbooks to be ordered in various subject areas, and were soon given the opportunity to teach the subject (subjects) that most interested them. St. Henry School pioneered in offering an accelerated program in reading, math, and art-once again benefiting our youth. Eighth grade students could take high school algebra and Spanish classes. For the first time in the 1980's at SHS, boys were required to wear a uniform to school. All school personnel enjoy the luxury of a full-time secretary and numerous volunteers in the office as well as in some classrooms. These secretaries made the individual teacher's load a bit lighter as they tackle various projects for each classroom teacher.
Learning and working together has brought still another change in progress as we began a Whole Language Program in our school from K through 8th grade in the 1991-92 school year. Students in all grades benefited from computer instruction that grew every year. In grades six to eight, students changed classes, and now seem to be better prepared for high school.
As of April, 1996 our elementary grades K through 8 had an enrollment of 492 students with twenty-two full time teachers. In addition, we have two teachers instructing in Chapter I, an athletic director, a development director, a volunteer coordinator, and two D.A.R.E. officers.
Our students have benefited immensely from programs such as computer classes for all grades, a yearly eighth grade class play since 1984; put on by the entire eighth grade class; an outstanding yearbook begun in 1986 involving student volunteers and a faculty advisor; music lessons by Mr. Gary Devoto, on the guitar and keyboard have been offered since 1994 to any interested student; a school newspaper entitled Crusader Quarterly, began in 1994, and written by all students in grades 6-8; a Quick Recall team, a Math team, a Student Council consisting of two representatives from each homeroom in grades 6-8, and one teacher coordinator- Mrs. Gerardi; and a valuable Everybody Counts program in grades K-8 with volunteer parents and speakers taught our students about the various handicaps people have. This weeklong program culminates with an all school Mass.
For the past seventeen years, our chorus has presented excellent concerts twice yearly to the delight of our parishioners and the general public. In addition, our fifth and sixth grade students go to see the Cincinnati Symphony perform twice each year. In 1995, our librarian, Mrs. Edwina Scheben, who has been at St. Henry School for twenty-eight years, computerized the card catalogue for students and teachers.
Our 7th and 8th grade students are represented each year in the Diocesan Speech, Math, and Art competition held at Thomas More College.
During the 1995 Catholic Schools’ Week, a Hall of Fame induction ceremony honoring men and women who have served St. Henry School in various ways over the years was initiated.
Since the 1992-1993 school year, our students in grades 7 & 8, their teachers, the principal, Mr. Philip Gessner, the secretary, Mrs. Genene Sheridan, and many volunteers and generous contributors have twice participated in the Greater Cincinnati Tall Stacks celebration. In October of 1995, the middle school building was turned into a paddlewheel boat to the delight of many! The teachers and students of grades 7 & 8 researched the history of life along the Ohio River and acted as guides who instructed the entire student body through various displays and group presentations depicting life on the river long ago.
Besides classroom activities, our students enjoy a variety of sports at St. Henry School including the following: boys and girls’ basketball in grades 4 through 8, instructional basketball camp in grades K-3; boys and girls’ volleyball in grades 4-8; boys and girls’ soccer in all grades with some 8th graders playing on the high school soccer team. Boys and girls’ cross country participation for boys and girls in grades 7 & 8 on the high school team. Cheerleading for girls in grades 7 & 8 is also provided.
Three times a year, the students in grades 6-8 gather together for a time of fun in the church basement for three dances sponsored by the eighth graders.
Our faculty and staff also enjoy one another’s company at our annual Christmas program and celebration, our spring golf outing, and our end of the year luncheon.
In 1998 the high school moved to its present location on Donaldson Road. With the move came expansion of the grade school. Our 5th through 8th grades, the library and computer room moved to the old high school building, while grades K-4 and our music room moved from the gym building to the building at the top of the lot.
In 2002 an elevator was added to the school to make it more accessible and a bridge constructed to connect the elementary school to the middle school.
In the summer of 2003 air-conditioning was added to all classrooms. This came about through money generated by our parents working basketball games at Xavier University and many hours of volunteer labor to install the air-conditioning.
Edwina Scheben retired after serving as school librarian for 30 years. Her dedication and service made it possible for the school to provide 26,000 books for the children’s reading pleasure. The library was completely computerized along with the addition of a computerized card catalogue. In addition several thousand boors were added to enhance our Accelerated Reader Program.
In 2005 our after school program was restored and a preschool program for 3 and 4 year olds was added. Once again our parents came through and raised $17,000.00 to renovate the school library now known as the Edwina Scheben Media Center. Also during this school year a gym renovation project was started. New baskets, bleachers, and a concession stand were added, all made possible through the efforts of our Sports Boosters Organization.
It was during this year three of our staff became the envy of all and retired. Gil Eisenmenger coached his last 8th grade game as a Crusader and Crystal Fedders and Mary Ann McKinley taught their last class at SHS. This was a combined total of 90 years of service to the children.
As you might guess, it is because we have solid Catholic leadership plus a committed faculty and staff and many parent volunteers who give of themselves constantly to support our Catholic school, that makes Saint Henry School the envy of many other Catholic schools in Northern Kentucky.