In the northern part of the Archdiocese of Seattle near the Canadian border, Assumption Catholic School was established in 1913. Parishioners in Bellingham, Washington had waited 25 years for a parish school and they were more than ready to support the effort.
Father Ferland was the second pastor of the original Assumption Parish and he made the bold move to buy the piece of property on the northeast edge of Bellingham which was to become the new home of Assumption Parish and School. Father Ferland endured much criticism since he consulted no one except the bishop. The fact that the property was far from the current parish and the land was marshy was of ne help either. In 1906, the $4000 paid for the half city block, became quite a debt for the parish and became known as "Ferland's Folly". Before leaving in 1913, Father Ferland started to draw up the plans for the new school, but did not see its completion.
As Father Ferland's successor, Father James Barrett is credited with the construction of the long awaited school. The beautiful, three story brick school opened on September 2, 1913, with 132 students in attendance who were taught by the Sisters of St. Dominic of the Congregation of St. Thomas Aquinas (Dominicans). The Dominican sisters came from Tacoma, Washington.
The school originally opened with first through twelfth grades. The high school only lasted until 1931. Enrollment fluctuated between 200-350 students. Currently, enrollment is 170 students in preschool through eighth grade.
The Dominican sisters taught the students of Assumption Catholic School until 1972. At that time more lay teachers began teaching with other orders of Sisters at the school. Assumption has had fifteen Dominican principals, the last serving in 1995. A total of 148 Dominicans taught at Assumption Catholic School.
The school did not charge for tuition until the 1960's. Before that, parish families were asked to pledge donations in a subscription drive during the construction phase. "Subscription Mothers", going door-to-door, collected 50 cents to a dollar a month from parishioners to satisfy the monthly budget. In 1965, tuition was being collected at $5 a month per child.
The School may have been new, but to the Dominicans the process was quite familiar. They wasted no time establishing a daily routine and spelling out the rules clearly to all the students. The day was filled with prayer, song, rigid classroom instruction, and very little recreation on the playground.
At 8:15 on a typical school day Sr. Vincentia would ring the big bell from the southeast door of the building. The school children would scurry to get in line in the covered play areas, with the boys lined up at the door in the south bay and the girls in the north bay. When everyone was in line and quiet, the signal was given to the student at a piano near the central staircase on the second floor to begin playing a march. Then the students would file into the school, the girls entering the central hallway and up the north stairway, the boys up the south stairway. when they reached the second floor they would form lines which would extend the full length of the corridor. The pianist, usually an eighth grade girl, would then accompany the assembly in the singing of a hymn.
After the hymn, the students would go to their classrooms and the day's instruction would begin. After the lunchtime recess, the children would enter the building in the same fashion, but instead of singing a hymn, there would be a patriotic song.