Our Lady of Mercy School was established in 1950, a dream of the Pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish, whose commitment to providing education and activities for the youth of the parish inspired his parishioners. The acclaimed scholarship, climate and discipline of Catholic elementary school education were benefits that the parishioners wished to provide for their children.
The first year, Our Lady of Mercy School held classes in the basement of the former church on Main Street, while the new school was under construction. Under the direction of the Religious Sisters of Mercy, grades kindergarten, one and two enrolled one hundred thirty-eight pupils. The faculty consisted of three Sisters of Mercy; one sister also served as the principal.
The new school building was ready for occupancy the following academic year. A grade was added to the school each successive year. In 1955 an addition to the building was opened. The addition included a new library and a book fair was held to stock the library.
By 1955 there were two classes of each grade. A very active group of women, who assisted the religious sisters in every possible way, became the “Mother’s Club . This was also the year of the first graduation.
Our Lady of Mercy sustained a proud reputation and flourishing enrollment for thirty-seven years, even immediately following Vatican II, a time when enrollments in other Diocesan elementary schools declined. The effects of demographic changes in East Greenwich ultimately impacted upon the school’s numbers.
The 1960’s through the 1980’s brought a remarkable influx of new residents to the town. The volume of OLM parishioners required the establishment of two new parishes, St. Francis de Sales in North Kingstown in 1960 and St. Gregory the Great in Warwick in 1961. Parish lines were redrawn and former children of Our Lady of Mercy parish became non-parishioners.
Miles of undeveloped land were transformed into middle and upper middle-class neighborhoods. This caused a demand for increased classrooms in the East Greenwich public schools and the need for a new high school. The nearby East Greenwich High School was renovated and opened in 1967 as Cole Junior High School. This school’s reconstruction provided state-of-the-art educational facilities and a broad range of extra curricular offerings, which were not offered at Our Lady of Mercy School. Seventh and eighth graders of Our Lady of Mercy School and their parents regarded the new public school as a more well rounded educational setting.
From the late 1980’s through 1990 Our Lady of Mercy School experienced some decline in upper grade enrollment. During this period, the pastor, the principal, and a task force of teachers and school board members conducted a study of the trend. It was decided to eliminate grades seven and eight by June 1991.
In 1993, under a new pastor, another study was conducted to examine the prospect of restoring grades seven and eight. The consideration was prompted by parents desire to keep their children in Our Lady of Mercy School until their high school years. The study concluded that the establishment of a separate diocesan sponsored middle school in the West Bay area would be a more fiscally sound plan. When that plan was not realized, however, and parents continued to press for the reopening of grades seven and eight, a third survey was done between 1997 and 1999. Following that survey, a decision was made to reopen the seventh grade in September of 1999 leading to the eighth grade the following year. This was done and the first graduation in ten years was held in June of 2001.
At that time a decision was made to renovate parts of the building and, also, an addition in the rear of the existing building was planned. It was determined that extra space was needed in order to best serve the increased numbers and a sound upper grade program. Plans were on hold for more than a year due to opposition to the extension from neighbors. However, in the spring of 2001, ground was finally broken and changes began to take place. Rocks were removed, walls came down, and walls went up. Little by little a whole new addition took shape. Included in the renovations were: a new, larger library; a new Science lab/classroom; two new classrooms on the lower level, a small resource room on the lower level; new lavatories on the lower level; a renovated-enlarged computer lab; an Art-Music room in an old classroom that was enlarged; a new handicapped restroom on the first floor; and three existing classrooms received new windows and walls due to the reconfiguration needed to accommodate the new structure. An indoor ramp was also added from the new corridor connecting the new library corridor and the existing gym. In mid October, 2001 the final firewall finally came down and students were able to see the new corridor and rooms. On October 28, 2001 Bishop Robert Mulvee celebrated a special Mass at Our Lady of Mercy Church and led a procession over to the school for the blessing of the new structure.
As the Middle School program grew, 2003 saw double grades through grade seven. The academic year 2004-2005 was the first year for double grades right through grade eight. Forty-four students, the largest class in many years, graduated.
Prior to the closing of grades seven and eight in 1991, the pastor established a small pre-school program in the church. In September of 1990, the service was moved into the school building and formally established as “New Discoveries Early Childhood Center for children of three and four years of age. Although the program was relocated to the school it was operated under the auspices of the church. This was consistent with the regulations of Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families. The program served the needs of the community, and served as a feeder for enrollment to the school. In 1996, however, the decision was made to transfer the operation and supervision of the New Discoveries Program to the school administration. In 1999 the three-year-old program was discontinued in order to allow room for the projected expansion.
At about the same time as the beginning of the New Discoveries Program, the school initiated an Extended Day Program to accommodate the needs of working parents. The program operates from 7:00 am to 8:00 am and from 2:30 PM to 5:30 PM. Teachers and aides are employed to supervise the children. The program exists in order to accommodate children of working parents/guardians and is only for students of Our Lady of Mercy School. It is under the Administration of the school and an on-site director.
In 1998 Our Lady of Mercy School was visited by an on-site team of educators representing the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Following that process, Our Lady of Mercy was granted initial accreditation through NEASC for ten years. In October of 2008 another Visiting Committee representing NEASC visited the school for three days. In December a formal report was received stating that NEASC had granted continued accreditation. The school continues to address recommendations and file periodic reports with NEASC.