St. Mary's School, Altona (No. 1273) first opened its doors on the 31st January, 1928. On the first day of school, Fr Flannery (Parish Priest) counted fifty children in attendance. Four months later the enrolment at the little school by the sea was eighty six. During the first year of the school's operation classes ranged from prep to year eight.
The new school commenced its life in the Catholic hall which was situated in Rayner Street (corner of Railway Street North). This hall also served as a church, dance hall, meeting place and cinema. It was a truly multi purpose building. The old timber hall, which was previously an historic Williamstown building, stood isolated in an unfenced paddock. At this time there were approximately 120 houses which housed the residents of Altona. These houses were scattered far and wide amongst the pine trees and box thorn, along a sandy pot holed track that served as a road through the flat landscape.
A quarry was located near the school in Rose Street. This quarry provided some of the materials used in the construction of concrete houses in Altona. Situated near Harrington Square was the small poppet head of the Altona Beach Estate Co. Ltd's brown coal mine which also opened in 1928.
St. Mary's first teachers were Josephite nuns who travelled each day from Newport on a one carriage 'teachers' train'. Sister Damien and Sister Leon would travel on the train with teachers from Blyth Street State School. The children would meet the train each morning and walk along the railway line for approximately one kilometre to the school.
Sr Damien was St. Mary's first principal from 1928 until 1933. Teaching materials used at this time included blackboards, slates and slate pencils. Older pupils used nib pens and inkwells to complete their school work.
The first permanent structure to be built on the current site was the senior building (white building on the corner of Sargood and Railway Streets) which was built in 1950. This building was a church with three classrooms on the Railway Street side. At the time the building cost 25,000 pounds to construct.
This building was followed by two classrooms in the 'Junior' building in 1959 which were built completely from volunteer labour. Two more classrooms in this building plus the toilet block were built in 1970. The 'Middle' building was completed in 1975 with a loan from the Schools Provident Fund. The new hall was completed in December 1996 Demolition of the old weatherboard hall took place over the Christmas holidays.
An extensive renovation and refurbishment program in 1999/2000 meant that the school is now well placed to provide for the needs of students and staff into the twenty first century. The Administration and office areas were moved to the main building and a new library and staff facilities were constructed. All other buildings were refurbished and computer wiring installed to facilitate computer terminals in all classrooms. New asphalt in the senior yard, new adventure playgrounds and garden work have provided the students and staff with a pleasant environment in which to work. The 'old' staff house was refurbished and now houses the Outside School Hours program and the Uniform Shop.
In 2011 we added a new building called the Technology, Research and Information Centre(TRI Centre). This beautiful new double story building comprises of a computer lab, library, offices, multi learning areas, while upstairs an auditorium with projector, screen, sound system and tiered seating. It is multi-functional with retractable walls in three locations.
In 2012 we joined parishes with St. Leo The Great, Altona North. Mary MacKillop's Feast Day saw a joint celebration held at each school on alternate years. In 2014 Father Shabin Kaniampuram was appointed as Parish Administrator. The following year, 2015, he was made our Parish Priest, which saw us return to an independent parish. In February 2018 we welcomed Archpriest Michael Kalka as parish priest.
The school currently has a population of 290 children and twelve classroom teachers. This is a far cry from the 50 children and two nuns who started the school some 74 years ago.
Should you be interested in further researching the history of St. Mary's School, please call at the office for further material.