The History of St. Paul High School
St. Paul High School was established by St. Paul Parish, San Francisco, CA in 1917, with the 9th grade class of what was to be a three-year commercial program and later a four-year academic program. Classes were initially held in the top floor of the elementary school (called the "Tin Lizzie") and in the basement of the rectory. Sr. Mary Rose, BVM was the first principal.
The high school building was constructed at 317 - 29th Street and was first occupied in January 1925.
The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Dubuque, Iowa, provided the principal and staff through its 77 year history. Many dedicated lay women and men were also part of the faculty and staff. The school was closed by the Archdiocese in June 1994. Over the decades, more than 5,000 women graduated from the school and many more attended one or more years. The school (commonly referred to as St. Paul's High School) was owned and operated by the parish, but it served young women from many neighboring parishes in the City.
Sister Maureen O'Brien, BVM (Class of 1954) came to teach religion in 1972 and was then selected as principal, serving from September 1973 until the school’s closure in June 1994.
An operative principle during the last decades of the school's existence was the belief that a Catholic high school education was to be available to all who wished to have that opportunity. Students from a wide variety of educational, social, and financial backgrounds formed the student body.
The October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake did not cause structural damage to the building. However, the State of California and San Francisco enacted legislation about seismic retrofitting of unreinforced masonry buildings (UMBs) to be carried out within a stipulated number of years.
The parish could not afford the multi-million dollar project for the high school when so few of the students were parishioners. Also, five other buildings of the parish, including the beautiful church, needed to be retrofitted.
Therefore, the parish sold the high school building, the adjacent convent, and the primary school to developers who turned them into condominiums. This raised capital to begin building a new elementary school and parish center on the corner of Church and 29th Streets.
Subsequently, the church was retrofitted and the parish remains a vibrant part of the Noe Valley community. It celebrated its 125th anniversary on April 24, 2005. The current church marked the 100th anniversary of its dedication on May 29, 2011.
The former baptistry of the church, now the Blessed Virgin Mary chapel, lists the names of all the BVM Sisters who served in the parish, as well as all the religious and priestly vocations to various dioceses and congregations which come from St. Paul Parish. Many of these are BVM Sisters, totaling 5% of the entire Congregation's membership.
Despite the closure of the school, the St. Paul High School Alumnae Association remains an active organization that maintains and promotes relationships among alumnae, sponsoring several annual events, and keeping the Paulite spirit alive.