By Melissa Sheil
MARY’S Mount Primary School in Gooseberry Hill reopens its doors to students next week for its 100th year, celebrating the occasion with a year of festivities.
Originally opening as an all-boys school in 1921 by the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition, the primary school has come a long way from the three sisters, five boarders and twelve pupils it began with.
The school has gone through many renovations in its history, starting with humble beginning as two cottages, before moving into a larger brick building in the 1950’s, then a new multi-purpose building in 1987 that is still in use.
In 1969, the school opened its doors to girls and announced it would no longer cater to boarders.
Other additions over the century include ‘Joseph’ the big bell, a chapel, a nature playground (opened by Maggie Dent), a redesigned quadrangle, garden and playground and a school hall.
One family with long ties to the school is the Giovinazzo/Bonomi’s, three generations of which have attended or worked at Mary’s Mount.
Michael Giovinazzo had his first Holy Communion at Mary’s Mount in 1949 and his late brother Luigi attended as a student.
Michael worked as the school’s gardener since the 1990’s before recently retiring and his wife Assunta still works at the school, having done everything from making sandwiches in the canteen to cleaning the buildings since 1965.
Their daughter Maria Bonomi attended the school as a student as did her sons Jordan and Brayden, her husband Claude serving on the school board for several years.
In honour of Michael and Assunta’s tenure, a building was named after them in 2018: the Giovinazzo Creative Learning Centre.
“We knew about it, but the name was kept as a surprise for them,” said Maria.
“There were a lot of tears the day it was revealed, they thought it was such an honour.”
Despite the last members of the family graduating in 2015, Maria is still assisting with centenary planning and said the family would attend many of the events.
“We just can’t seem to leave,” she said.
“Even when we lived 45 minutes away, we would still make sure to come here, there’s just something so special about the staff and the values and community the school has.”
Incoming Principal Emma Bell said she felt blessed her first year was such an important one for the school.
“It is slightly daunting that I’m in my first year while the school is at its hundredth but I’m hoping to honour all the traditions that have come before me,” she said.
“Already within a few weeks I’ve come across these amazing connections and met families like the Giovinazzo’s who are woven into the very fabric of the school.
“It’s a privilege to be custodian to this beautiful school and the centenary, like our faith, will be incorporated into everything throughout the year.”
To celebrate one hundred years, the school have scheduled various events across the 2021 term calendar.
Celebrating the school’s official birthday on February 2, staff and students will attend a mass, eat birthday cake and enjoy other party activities.
Also on the agenda are historical tours for past staff, families and alumni, the sale of commemorative personalised bricks and a rebuild of the stone prayer grotto that once stood on the school’s grounds.