spiritual roots of Mount Alvernia High School go back to St. Francis of
Assisi and St. Clare in the twelfth century and to Mother Elizabeth Hayes,
founder of the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception
in Belle Prairie, Minnesota, in 1873. Mount Alvernia High School is a
direct descendant of the missionary spirit and commitment of Mother Elizabeth
Hayes and the Franciscan sisters.
The physical presence of Mount Alvernia in Newton began with the foundation
of a novitiate at Manet Road in Chestnut Hill in 1912. Fifteen years later,
in 1927, Mount Alvernia Academy opened its doors at Manet Road as a coeducational
elementary school, a day school for boys and a boarding and day school
for girls. In 1935 the program was extended through high school, for girls
A new building was constructed for the high school at Manet Road in 1937,
and the high school affiliated with the Secondary School Department of
the Catholic University of America, which awarded diplomas. The first
class of eight students graduated in 1939. (The Academy continued to function
as a coeducational elementary school at Manet Road.)
In response to various needs within the Franciscan community, the high
school was moved to its present Centre Street location, several miles
from Manet Road, in 1972. For the previous six years the Centre Street
building had been used as a novitiate and, for a short time, as a college
for the Franciscan community. In 1972 the high school moved into the classroom
side of the building, while the residential side continued to be used
by Franciscan sisters, as it still is today.
Between 1972 and 1994, enrollment steadily increased-from 90 students
in 1972-73 to 179 in 1993-94. In 1993 the Provincial Council of the Missionary
Franciscan Sisters decided to disband the seventh and eighth grades at
Mount Alvernia Academy and open the seventh and eighth grades at Mount
Alvernia High School.
The high school administration, under the leadership of principal Sr.
Suzanne Fondini, rose to the challenge and within eighteen months had
transformed the high school into a six-year institution. A carriage house
on the property was renovated to contain five classrooms, an art studio,
and several offices; the faculty, after studying the academic and social
implications of adding twelve- and thirteen-year-olds to the school, implemented
a strong six-year curriculum; and the outside community enthusiastically
embraced our new program.
Enrollment has been steady and full at about 250 students since the
introduction of the seventh and eighth grades in 1994-95. In the year
2000 our first class of students to attend Mount Alvernia High School
from grade 7 to grade 12 graduated.
Mount Alvernia has had four principals in its twenty-five years on the Centre Street campus. Sr. Damon Nolan (1972-79), Sr. Helene Byrne (1979-88), and Sr. Suzanne Fondini (1988-1999) are all members of the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. Mrs. Kathleen Kent became Mount Alvernia High School's first lay principal in September 1999.