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"The parish started in 1939 and very soon afterwards they wanted to start a school, but then World War II interfered," said Laurie DeMeyere of the school's Alumni Committee.After the war ended and soldiers returned home to their families, the pastor took a survey of the neighborhood in 1948 and found more than 1,100 children of pre-school age in the area."Parishioners wanted a Catholic education for their children," DeMeyere said. So the parish raised over $700,000 of the million-dollar cost of building the school at 56-10 214th St., and it opened in 1954 with 475 students enrolled in first through fifth grades.The school is now celebrating its 50th anniversary with a special mass at the church April 3, followed by a dinner and dance at the Immaculate Conception Center at 72-00 Douglaston Parkway.Some 200 people are expected to attend the event, with more than half from classified as alumni or former faculty. "We even have two people coming from Florida," DeMeyere said.The school currently has around 300 students enrolled in its prestigious K-8 program as well as in its nursery and preschool."We're very proud of the test scores here," said Principal Anthony Danile. "They do very well." Many graduates of the school, which is accredited by the Middle States Association of College and Schools, go on to the borough's elite Catholic high schools such as Holy Cross in Flushing or St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows, he said.The students are also planning a school mass and special events on April 28 in honor of the 50th anniversary.Officials hailed the rigorous education and longevity of the school, especially in light of the diocese's recent closures of several parish schools in the borough due to declining enrollment."Like all Catholic schools, we're striving to maintain a healthy enrollment," Danile said. "It's a challenge, but we feel we are superior because of the smaller classes, the values we teach.""A quality Catholic education is the foundation for high school and college," he added.Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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