In August, 1894, a two story frame building located at 5528 Grand Avenue, three blocks from the church, was the site of the first St. James School. Although the original St. James School building was commodious and quite attractive, it was poorly built and therefore ill-fitted to resist the freezing climate of a northern winter. Toward the end of August, four Benedictine Sisters from the Institute came to take charge. The fall months proved pleasant and one hundred four pupils registered for the various grades. The sisters started out with enthusiasm and were exhilarated in being part of the general progress of the town. However, the winter of 1894-1895 was unusually severe and for three winter months the students and sisters suffered constantly from the bitter cold. Since the school proved too cold for both pupils and teachers, it was discontinued in June, 1895. From that time, two or three sisters came every Sunday to teach religion to the children until a new school was built by Rev. Daniel Lynch in 1913.
The new school was completed in August, 1914, and Sr. Beatrice Sauve served as the first principal. St. James School was considered the finest in the diocese next to the Cathedral Grade School located on Second Avenue West and Fourth Street. It had eight classrooms, an office, a library, a meeting hall, which served as a recreation room, a boy's gymnasium, and a lunch room. On the third floor, there was a stage with adjacent dressing rooms and an auditorium with balconies equipped to seat a total of one thousand people. On the first day of school, the enrollment was four hundred fifty students. The cost of the school amounted to fifty thousand dollars. Since the enrollment at the school had grown to four hundred sixty pupils by 1925, a school playground was built in 1926 on the two lots south of the school grounds. Between 1932 and 1933 the ground level of the school was remodeled at the cost of two thousand six hundred dollars. In 1946, the school curriculum was expanded to include a kindergarten and a ninth grade.
After 1963, enrollment began a gradual decline. In 1968, grade seven, eight and nine were eliminated, leaving St. James a K-6 school. Enrollment continued to decline, and reached a low point of 68 students in 1984. However, since 1988, our enrollment has continued to climb and many improvements have taken place. The school became accredited by the Minnesota Nonpublic School Accrediting Association for the first time in 1990. In the fall of 1995 a Jr. Kindergarten (pre-school) was opened. The playground was restructured in the summer of 1997 through the dedicated work of parents and parishioners at a cost of $62,000. In 1999 a second pre-school session was added due to increased interest.
At the strong request of parents, the administration decided to re-establish grades 7 and 8 to the school, and these grades were added in 2001 and 2002 respectively. Grades 6-7-8 have been established as a middle school, which provides an expanded curriculum including Spanish instruction and Life Skills Classes (formerly known as Home Economics and Shop).
The preschool became licensed in 2005. Since 2006, St. James has offered both 3-day and 5-day per week Kindergarten. We also offer two preschool options -- 3 full days or 2 full days per week.
In 2004, a building project began that transformed our learning space and enhanced the mission of both church and school. Beginning in mid-April of that year, the old rectory and garage were demolished and the site was prepared for the new structure. The building project included: 1) remodeling the interior of the school to include a new science lab, computer lab, and media center, 2) making the building handicap accessible (ramps and an elevator), 3) linking the school and church with a new, multi-use fellowship hall/gymnasium and a gathering space, 4) adding centralized offices, a new kitchen, a multi-purpose lunchroom, and 5) upgrading heating, ventilation and electrical systems, all at a cost of approximately $2 million.
Since that time, additional remodeling projects have taken place in the original school building, including new floor coverings, bathrooms, band practice rooms and storage. All components of the building project were completed by 2008.