LANGDON, N.D. – Family ties to St. Alphonsus School have remained strong through the generations, and 100 years after it was built, children continue to learn academic and religious lessons within its walls
The Catholic school in Langdon, named after Alfonso Maria de 'Liguori, an 18th-century Italian bishop, opened in 1921 under the direction of Bishop James O’Reilly of the Fargo Diocese. The Rev. M.M. Corry encouraged the parish to build the 19-room, four-story building, which was designed by the Kirk architectural firm in Fargo, according to a 75th-year history of the school written by Rita Maisel.
Families in the St. Alphonsus parish pledged donations to help finance construction of the school which, until 1968, included a high school.
The school, which now has 89 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, still has solid support from the Langdon community, and some of the students and staff have been part of St. Alphonsus for generations, said Carrie Hope, St. Alphonsus School administrator.
“We’re a family school,” she said. “My grandma and my father went here, and I went here, and now I have my first-grader and my triplet preschoolers going here.”
Hope’s grandmother, Ruth Fischer, attended St. Alphonsus in the 1940s and her father, Kim Chaput, attended in the 1970s. Hope attended school there in the 1990s.
“I’m pretty proud to have the fourth generation here,” Hope said.
Being in a school with fewer than 100 students means her children and other students receive a lot of one-on-one learning opportunities, Hope said. At the same time, the school works to keep its curriculum and technology up to date.
For example, St. Alphonsus has nearly completed a goal to have students in grades kindergarten through eight have an iPad to use in school. Each classroom also has an Apple TV or smart board, and the school has a 14-station computer lab, Hope said.
"We work very hard to keep our curriculum and technology up to date,” she said.
The close bonds students and teachers share is what Sister Bernadette Trecker recalls about teaching at the school. Trecker, a Presentation sister who now lives in Fargo, taught at St. Alphonsus for a total of 20 years, 16 of them consecutively, from 1987 to 2003.
“It has a real family spirit,” Trecker said. She also enjoyed living in an agricultural community whose members had strong faith in God.
“With farming, you're close to the land, and appreciating rural life," she said.
Sister Lorriane Schmaltz, also a Presentation sister now living in Fargo, was impressed by her students’ enthusiasm, Schmaltz said.
“I had an eighth-grade home room. They wanted to learn. They really appreciated their education,” Schmaltz said.
The first school principal was Sister Mary Xavier, a member of the Presentation order, which was founded in Ireland and began operating schools in North Dakota in 1883, Maisel’s history said. Over the succeeding years, several members of the Presentation order, including Trecker and Schmaltz, continued to teach at the school, and to live in Langdon.
The number of students in St. Alphonsus School’s upper grades – there are no high school students and just two in eighth-grade – has declined over the years, but enrollment of young children continues to grow.
The school’s pre-school, at 41, has the highest enrollment. Next year, the school is adding another pre-kindergarten section.
Besides the academic and extracurricular activities offered at the school, students who attend St. Alphonsus participate in a variety of community service projects, attending Catholic Mass at the church across the street that bears the same saint’s name as the school. Before COVID-19, they gathered in the morning for prayer and songs, Hope said. She plans to resume the prayer and song time when her students can again safely gather together.
“It’s a great environment,” Lisa Bakke, school cook, said during a break on a recent school day. “I love the school. I went to school here. So did my dad.”
A 100th anniversary celebration of St. Alphonsus School will be July 16-18 in Langdon and will include a July 17th Mass celebrated by Fargo Diocese Bishop John Folda.
For information on the celebration, contact Hope at (701) 256-2354 or email her at: email@example.com.