The History of Catholic Education in Mitchell
For over 125 years Catholic Education has played in integral role in the religious formation, and the academic and personal development in students. This opportunity for growth has been made available because of the generosity and commitment of the Presentation Sisters, dedicated priests, caring parish families and alumni.
In 1886 meetings were held to build a Catholic school to be under the direction of the Sisters of Charity from Fond du Lac, WI. On May 23, 1886 the school cornerstone was placed. The school was opened on September 6, 1886 with 46 students. In 1895 four Benedictine sisters from Yankton were sent to staff Holy Family School. They taught there for three years. In 1898 the Presentation Sisters of Aberdeen sent four sisters to continue Catholic education in Mitchell.
In 1912 a decision was made to tear down Holy Family School and build a new one. The Notre Dame Academy was started in 1912. The first graduating class of 1914 consisted of two members.
In 1918, Notre Dame Junior College opened in Mitchell. The East wing of the Notre Dame Academy building was added in 1921. The Presentation Sisters nurtured these schools for many years by providing nuns for teachers, administrators, and helping in the overall operations of the building. As time passed, the Sisters envisioned a growing need for expanding the opportunities for college students. These needs were met by merging Notre Dame Junior College with Presentation Junior College of Aberdeen in 1951. Notre Dame Junior College graduated 1,376 students during its 29 year existence in Mitchell.
In 1954 the Holy Family gymnasium was built across the street from the school, and new additions to the Notre Dame Academy building were completed in 1955 and 1960. In 1962, the steady growth of the Mitchell community led Holy Family parish to split. Holy Spirit Parish was formed and in 1964 Holy Spirit School opened its doors to students in grades one through eight.
Notre Dame High School moved to the former public high school building on East Fifth Street in the winter of 1963. Students from both parishes took advantage of this opportunity to continue their Catholic education at the new location. Financial woes began to plague the high school operation in the late sixties, and in 1970 the difficult decision was made to close Notre Dame High School.
In 1987 Holy Family and Holy Spirit Schools joined to form the Mitchell Catholic School system. With the departure of the Presentation Sisters from Mitchell, the schools would be without religious sisters for the first time since the school’s inception.
Over the next several years, Holy Family and Holy Spirit schools streamlined their operations by eliminating grades seven and eight while adding preschool services. The Holy Family site housed grades three through sixth, and the Holy Spirit site housed Preschool –second grades. Combined school enrollment at that time was 293.
In 1999 Holy Family and Holy Spirit parishes made the decision to combine the Catholic School System into one facility; with the encouragement from the Bishop, Pastors, parents and school personnel. An intensive fundraising campaign was launched to fund the new construction. On May 1, 2000, the new John Paul II Elementary school held its groundbreaking as an addition to the Holy Spirit School. Holy Family School was closed and classrooms were moved into the new John Paul II facility. On January 2, 2001 all students started school at John Paul II Elementary School.
In 2005 the abandoned yet venerable Notre Dame Academy was demolished to make way for the new addition of Holy Family Church. Today strong Catholic Education opportunities are still available because of the faithful support of the Holy Family and Holy Spirit parishes along with the administration, staff and families of John Paul II School, and caring alumni!