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Bosco Catholic School System



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History of Don Bosco School System

Gilbertville, Don Bosco High School 1956 - 2000

Don Bosco High School is a four year Catholic high school established in 1956.  Operated by the Diocese of Dubuque, Don Bosco HS is located in Gilbertville, Iowa, south of the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area.

"Don Bosco Central High School, in partnership with the students, parents, and community, will provide a challenging environment to develop intellectual, social, physical, and creative abilities while fostering spiritual and emotional growth so that all students can successfully meet the demands of a changing global society." Although this mission statement was crafted and implemented at Don Bosco several years ago, it's spirit has been present throughout the school's history.

The planning for a new high school first began in 1955 with the appointment of Rev. Wilbur W. Ziegler as administrator of Immaculate Conception parish in Gilbertville. Archbishop Leo Binz requested that Rev. Ziegler work with local parishes to improve the quality of Catholic education in the area. On December 8, 1955, only two days after his arrival, Rev. Ziegler assured parishioners that he would do all he could to assist in building a high school that would satisfy the educational and spiritual needs of the parishes' students.

The first meeting to discuss a new high school was held on February 7, 1956. Pastors from St. Athanasius - Jesup, St. Francis - Barclay, St. Joseph's - Raymond, St. Mary's - Eagle Center, Sacred Heart - La Porte City, and Immaculate Conception - Gilbertville were present. These pastors successfully petitioned for the organization and construction of a Catholic central high school. With the archbishop's approval, Gilbertville was officially chosen as the location for the school and Rev. Donald F. Sweeney was appointed executive coordinator for the new high school.

Building began in July 1956 on a strip of land donated and cleared by Immaculate Conception parish. About eight hundred trees were felled that summer and 65,000 cubic yards of dirt were hauled to prepare the land for the athletic field and building site. The building itself was contracted to cost no more than $145,865 with each of the six parishes contributing toward the cost.

Registration for the first year of Don Bosco High School took place August 26-28, 1956. After careful preparations by Rev. Sweeney, Sr. Mary Angela Shier, principal, and three other School Sister of Notre Dame from Mankato, Minnesota, the school year began September 4, 1956 with 170 students. In celebration of the new year and the new school, a Votive Mass was offered in honor of the Holy Spirit by Monsignor Cremer.

With the support of the local parishes as well as generous individuals, building improvements have continued at Don Bosco. In 1957, the auditorium-gymnasium was added to the building. A twenty-five room addition was built in 1964 providing new areas for a library, science labs, band, home economics, and additional classrooms. With the generous assistance of alumni, a wrestling room and, more recently, technology labs have been added. Substantial community involvement in the "For a Brighter Future" development fund, begun in 1990, has also contributed to many of the school's improvements.

Since its foundation, nearly 3,000 students have benefited from the challenging environment of Don Bosco High School. Enrollment has varied from 161 students to 406 students over the school's history; 223 students are enrolled in the 1999-2000 school year. Don Bosco provides a sound academic program which includes emphasis on Catholic teachings within an atmosphere of Christian living. Accredited by the State of Iowa, Don Bosco offers its students a full range of courses in business education, general education, and college preparatory. Extra-curricular opportunities have adapted to meet students' changing interests and needs, including dramatics, speech, music ministry, band, concert choir, student council, sports, publications, photography, Shakespeare after Hours, and National Honor Society. Don Bosco has continued to be a joint venture in sharing, in which students, parents, Church, and community provide an opportunity for growth for all students.

Gilbertville, Immaculate Conception School

Realizing the importance of a Catholic education, Father Nemmers, a few months after his arrival, opened a school (spring of 1876) and became its teacher. Then lay teachers Peter Hess, Eugene Mergen, Henry Nemmers, and Father Nemmers brother, John P. (Jeanper), the organist took over until the coming of the School Sisters of Notre Dame from Milwaukee in 1892. Sister Mary Barnaba Glas, Sister Mary Gamella Sommer, and Sister Mary Bonavita Heil arrived at their newly built home in Gilbertville on August 26.

The old stone church (and then the old frame church) was used for the 120 pupils. The latter building, however, was destroyed by fire in December, 1895. Had not the bucket brigade been hurriedly organized by the men of the town, the new church would have caught fire also. Especially noted for his bravery on this occasion was the lame carpenter, Pierre Gales, who crawled to the edge of the roof in the leaping flames to put out the fire on the shingles.

Some months later a new brick-veneer school containing a chapel and four classrooms was built. By 1904 the enrollment had increased to 160. A year after Father Cremer became pastor, an annex to the school was completed to accommodate the 217 children. Within the next ten years, because the enrollment increased to 250, the boarders department was discontinued and the added space utilized.

Immaculate Conception High School had its beginning in 1943 with the addition of the ninth grade. Sister Mary Cleophia Roden was the first high school teacher. Another grade was added each year, and Immaculate Conception High graduated its first class of nine seniors in 1947.

In 1952 the high school equipment was moved to first floor of the school, and grade classes were conducted on second floor. Grades one through three were housed in the former boarders rooms in the convent. When still more room was needed in 1959, three classrooms were set up in the parish hall.

Immaculate Conception High School closed in 1956. Until 1956, when the inter-parochial Don Bosco Catholic Central High School was established for Gilbertville and five surrounding parishes, high school students were in attendance at Immaculate Conception. Approximately eighty-five students were enrolled in the high school at that time. Upon the completion of Don Bosco, Immaculate Conception School was used exclusively by the grade school. Contributions toward Don Bosco building and gymnasium from Immaculate Conception parish totaled $162,622.

In the spring of 1969 the elementary parish schools of St. Joseph in Raymond and Immaculate Conception in Gilbertville joined to form the consolidated school, Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph School with centers in both Raymond and Gilbertville. Father Kenneth Ryan was pastor at Immaculate Conception, and Father Grace was pastor at St. Joseph. The chair of the school board was Harold Schmitz. The newly consolidated school used the existing facilities at both sites with the Raymond, St. Joseph Center becoming the center for the primary unit and the Immaculate Conception Center having the classes for the intermediate and the upper elementary grades.

After the St. Joseph Church was destroyed by fire in 1973, the lower level of the brick building at Raymond was renovated to become the parish church. The upper level had four classrooms and the school office and library, and later had two kindergarten rooms and two rooms for first grade. In 1998 the original white frame school building built in 1950 under Father Gerlemans supervision was officially named Reuter Hall in memory of parishioner, Cleo Robert Reuter. This housed the parish hall/lunch room and kitchen on the lower level and, on the upper level, classrooms for the two second grade sections as well as two other classrooms for art, music, and physical education.

At the Immaculate Conception Center in Gilbertville, the Immaculate Conception School building built in 1963 used the upper floor for the intermediate (third-fifth) grade unit and had a music room and a large library. The lower level had classrooms for the middle school, grades six through eight. Physical education classes used the upper level of St. Mary's Hall with its small gymnasium and had their hot lunch program in the lower level. New playground equipment was added to both centers in 1989. In 1990 all of the classrooms and interiors of the buildings were painted and new double pane windows with screens added energy efficiency. In 1999 new carpeting was installed in the stairways, entrances, and physical education room in Reuter Hall.

In 1984 a kindergarten program began with students in session every other day. In the fall of 1997 the kindergarten program expanded to an all-day, every-day kindergarten program with two classrooms of kindergarten students. In the fall of 2000, the ABC (After and Before Care) Program for school-age children began in Reuter Hall.

In 1995, a middle school program was begun for students in grades six through eight. Ninety-nine percent of eighth grade students continued their education at Don Bosco High School.

In 1999-2000 enrollment was recorded as 346 students, staffed by twenty-two lay teachers, a principal, a Dubuque Franciscan Sister as part-time counselor, with an educational assistant, administrative assistant, and several part-time support staff members, helped by almost thirty parent volunteers. The school had an active Home School Association with a core group of active parents who coordinated volunteers and a number of fund-raising annual events. In the spring of 2000, this Home School Association received one of the five annual national awards from the National Catholic Education Association in recognition of its parent and community support.

An active technology committee coordinated the wiring of a local network in the Immaculate Conception Center in 1995. This network had a closed circuit video network for cable television, a phone system with a phone in every classroom, and a computer network linking all classrooms with a fiber optic cable connection with Don Bosco and its network. The media center/library contained a computer lab with several mini labs in other classrooms. Each classroom had a computer, phone, TV and videocassette recorder.

In 1998-1999 the school board began a strategic planning process for the future. The three year plan was written, and implementation was begun in the fall of 1999 with the hiring of a K-12 development director as a shared position with Don Bosco High School. Board committees studied the utilization of the former Gilbertville convent space for school programs and explored expanding programs to include extended care, preschool, and daycare in keeping with the school mission to offer a Christ-centered program of academic excellence that assists and supports parents in developing life-long learners who give Christian service as productive members of a world community.

The present Immaculate Conception Grade School, completed in 1963, provided an area of 21,747 square feet and comprised twelve classrooms, an office, a conference room, a health room, two auxiliary rooms for supplementary teaching, and a library. Seven Sisters and four lay teachers (Mrs. Gertrude Collins, who came in 1956, was the first lay teacher) instructed 419 students in 1965.

Health services for Immaculate Conception School were given by county health nurses, and psychological assistance was obtained through Mr. Larry McDonald, county psychologist for Black Hawk County. Students desiring instruction in piano and in percussion and wind instruments received lessons from Mr. Eugene Hanten, music instructor at Don Bosco.

Extensive audiovisual aids in the 3500-book central library enriched curriculum offerings. In 1944 the second-floor corridor was partitioned to make a library. When the ninth grade was added in 1943, the library was moved to the first floor of the school and later to a spacious room on second floor. Some parish Sunday collection money was given for the purchase of books, pictures and films. Eighth grade boys and girls took entire charge of handling the books, checking and shelving them during study periods. Upper grades spent an hour weekly in the library; intermediate grades, forty-five minutes; and primary grades, a half hour.

In the spring of 1969, the schools of Immaculate Conception in Gilbertville and St. Joseph in Raymond joined to form the consolidated school, Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph School with centers in both Gilbertville and Raymond.


Raymond, St. Joseph School

Mention is made in the Centennial History of the Archdiocese of Dubuque edited in 1938 by Msgr. Mathias M. Hoffmann, that a school was begun in the first years of the parish but that it did not prosper. However, catechetical instruction was held throughout the year and in the summer for the children of the parish.

In 1950 a frame building consisting of three classrooms, an office, and a full basement used as a parish hall, was built under the direction of Father Gerleman. Four Franciscan Sisters from Wheaton, Illinois, Sister Mary Marian Strevler, principal, Sister Mary Elaine Gregor, Sister Mary Pauline Langfield, and Sister Mary Bartholomew Spellman opened St. Joseph School on September 3, 1950, with eighty pupils. An addition of another classroom and a large kitchen was built in the summer of 1954 and in 1961, two temporary classrooms were partitioned off in the basement of the school as the 1950 enrollment of eighty pupils had more than doubled.

Mrs. Irene Bluemle joined the faculty in 1957 as the first lay teacher and in October, 1958, a teacher-aide program was inaugurated. A number of women of the parish volunteered to help in remedial classes, to supervise the lunchroom and playground, and to assist with secretarial work. In 1965 five Sisters and one laywoman instructed 183 students.

Since 1957 about seventy-six percent of the students finishing grade school at St. Joseph attended Don Bosco High School at Gilbertville. St. Joseph Parish was one of six that financed this rural interparochial high school. The parish paid $25,000, or (12.01 percent), of Don Bosco building costs. In 1964 a $300,000 addition was made to the Don Bosco High School building. The same six parishes assumed the cost of construction. St. Joseph Parish, Raymond, paid its share of thirteen percent or $39,000. Each year the parish assumed the major share of the tuition burden for parish pupils attending Don Bosco High School. Father Donald Sweeney, pastor of St. Joseph in 1960, was first executive coordinator of the high school.

Several programs were introduced into the curriculum. 1961 saw the beginning for grades seven and eight to participate in Days of Recollection. The Great Books Program was also inaugurated in 1961 for upper-grade students. Directors of the program were teacher aides, who also assisted with the enrichment reading program. A limited system of student government was carried on by the eighth grade civics club. The members assisted with many of the administrative duties in the school, such as caring for the Thrift Program and monitoring and patrolling classrooms and streets. Ability grouping was introduced in the upper grades, and classes were departmentalized in 1962. The English class published its first edition of the Little Bugle, a school newspaper, October 14, 1962.

It was in the spring of 1969 when the parish schools of St. Joseph in Raymond and Immaculate Conception in Gilbertville joined to form the consolidated school, Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph School with centers in both Raymond and Gilbertville.