St. Francis Episcopal Day School was founded in 1952 by a group of area residents, both parishioners and non-parishioners, who decided to create a parish school as part of the St. Francis Episcopal Church. The school they envisioned would be self-supporting and use the existing parish facilities. After welcoming an initial class of 24 preschoolers, St. Francis eventually grew to educate students from pre-kindergarten through 8th grade. The school’s four cornerstones are faith, scholarship, courage and honor.
St. Francis is affiliated with the St. Francis Episcopal Church, and the school has included Episcopal Christianity in its curriculum since its founding. St. Francis uses community outreach, religion classes, and chapel services to encourage students to “develop character, make sound and healthy choices, and become people for others.” Chapel service is required twice a week, and parents are also welcome to attend. While a strong emphasis is placed on the Episcopal faith, however, students of all religious backgrounds are welcome.
St. Francis’ main campus is located on a 15.5-acre wooded campus near the Memorial area of Houston, west of the 610 Loop, near a second 23-acre campus called South Campus which is still under construction. The facilities include four acres of playing fields, three primary school cottages, a gymnasium, two athletics fields, and a main house. Notable academic facilities include a Fine Arts Center that seats up to 600, an outdoor classroom, and a 7,000-square-foot Library and Technology Center. The school’s facilities were built in the 1950s but have continually expanded since then. The new South Campus includes an additional gymnasium complex, two new athletics fields, primary school facilities, and an alumni and academic building.
The new primary school facilities are slated for completion in early 2016. Three new cottages will replace the existing three primary school cottages, and the new development will also feature an indoor/outdoor drama stage, art decks, child-sized kitchens, an outdoor classroom, and nature trails.
The St. Francis admission process includes an online application, a $75 application fee, an entrance exam, a copy of the applicant’s birth certificate, teacher recommendations from math and English teachers (for applicants to grades 5-8 only), an academic transcript, and a photo.
The entrance exams for different grade levels are as follows: WPPSI/WISC testing for K – 1st grade; OLSAT and Achievement Test for 2nd – 4th grades; OLSAT and ISEE for 5th – 8th grades
Prospective students are required to schedule a visit and observation, and prospective parents are required to participate in one of the following: scheduled admissions tour, admissions preview, or individual visit. St. Francis is particularly looking for students who are a good fit for its culture, community and mission statement. Legacy is a factor in the admissions process.
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St. Francis offers standard academic tracks for all grades and Pre-AP classes for middle school students. In the lower school, students take language arts, math, science, PE, religion, technology and social studies. The core academic curriculum is supplemented by rotations of music, art, drama and Spanish. In middle school, students take English, history, math, science, Spanish, “Life Skills,” and PE, along with an elective and study hall. For 5th – 8th grade students, Pre-AP Math is offered, and for 6th-8th grade students, Pre-AP English is offered. Students must apply to take Pre-AP classes.
St. Francis does not advertise any accommodations for special needs. However, the school does have mentorship programs for students, including the Advisory and Life Skills programs. These programs allow one-on-one student interaction with faculty advisors and promote “healthy decision-making and a positive self-image.” St. Francis also offers individual tutoring sessions for reading and math skill building, though not for homework help.
St. Francis offers Spanish as a foreign language. In the lower school, Spanish is taught four times per week, and it is included as an elective in middle school. St. Francis also offers foreign language classes in the Encore Plus Enrichment after-school program.
Lower school students have hour-long weekly art classes and twice-weekly introductory music classes. Kindergarten students make movies for their own film festival. First, second and third graders perform drama in the classroom; fourth graders produce and perform in a spring musical. Middle school students may participate in visual art, art history, choral music, drama, music history, orchestra, theater tech, and “Art a la Carte.” Fifth, sixth and seventh graders take art classes as part of a quarterly rotation. Eighth graders take art for a semester and display their work at their individual retrospective art shows at the end of the semester. Choir students have the opportunity to participate in chapel services, school assemblies, district and state competitions, and performances in retirement centers and the community.
St. Francis integrates technology into all aspects of its curriculum. Lower and middle school students use the Internet, word processors, presentation software, digital cameras and scanners in hands-on projects. The campus has four computer labs which house both PCs and Macs. Students have the opportunity to use the computer labs weekly. Additionally, all classrooms are equipped with Smart boards, and teachers have access to portable laptop carts and wireless Internet.
Clubs at St. Francis include Student Admission Ambassadors, National Junior Honor Society, Yearbook, several student councils, and Where Everybody Belongs (WEB) mentoring to help fifth graders transition into middle school. Students can also compete in Private School Interscholastic Association contests. The school also hosts Encore Plus Enrichment Classes after school, which include ballet, art, foreign language, Tae Kwon Do, gymnastics, gold, fencing, Zumba, cooking, Lego robotics, soccer, chess, and individual lessons in piano, violin, and voice. Furthermore, St. Francis Episcopal Church sponsors a Girl Scout troop and a Cub Scout troop which are open to students.
St. Francis also offers several community service opportunities. In the past, students have collected backpacks for Iraqi students and worked with hospitals, Houston’s homeless population, and organizations like the Holocaust Museum, the SPCA, and the Ronald McDonald House. Twice each quarter, the school hosts Ingatherings, in which students bring food and other items to donate to various charities.
The school also provides several off-campus enrichment opportunities. Students may study in outdoor classrooms and take overnight trips around Texas. Middle school students can also participate in travel programs, including trips to Washington DC, Costa Rica, and Europe.
While lower school students do not play competitively, they may participate in league sports through the St. Francis Sports Association. Middle school students may participate in one competitive sports program in each of the fall, winter, and spring seasons. The school fields more than forty teams across thirteen sports: volleyball, field hockey, football, cross country, basketball, soccer, wrestling, swimming, softball, lacrosse, baseball, tennis, and track & field. Students not actively playing sports may become student managers for the teams of their choice and earn service hours.
The St. Francis’ Parents Association sponsors many activities throughout the school year. The goal of the association is to educate parents, as it organizes guest-speakers, author visits, forums, and book discussions on parenting issues. The school also has a Parent Education Committee and a Cultural Enrichment Committee. In the primary and lower schools, homeroom parents and advisory parents are encouraged to work directly with the teachers to help coordinate volunteers and events, such as the annual Festival Day. Other clubs include the Dad’s Club, the Athletic Booster Club, the Friends of Fine Arts, and the Admissions Volunteer Program. All volunteers are required to participate in the Safeguarding God’s Children training program.