Xavier’s Lower School, formerly known as St. Francis Academy, was established on January 20, 1890. It was the second Catholic School founded in The Bahamas by the Sisters of Charity, from Mount St.Vincent–on–the-Hudson in New York. Very little is known of the early days of the school. It opened in the convent on West Hill Street and remained there until 1931 when it moved, to a house on West Bay Street, given to the Benedictine Mission by its owners.
During the war years, 1941-1945, for safety reasons, the Academy occupied the Hermitage on the Eastern Road. However, its distance from the city created some transportation challenges for students. As a result, the academy moved back to St. Francis Xavier’s Convent, and the following year it returned permanently to the campus on West Bay Street.
Ten years later in 1955, a modern school building was erected on the property. Sister Jean Miriam Donachie was headmistress at the time and Mr. Thomas Dean was the contractor for the new building. It was estimated that the new Xavier’s building was valued at about one million dollars. However, due to careful planning by Thomas Dean and Fr. George Wolf, the actual cost of the construction was held at about $300,000. The new building consisted of twelve classrooms, a kindergarten, a science laboratory, a library and an auditorium that seated 400 persons. Architectural plans for the building were completed free of charge by Mr. R.V. McCann from Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In September 1955, the academy moved into its new quarters. The building was dedicated on February 5, 1956, by His Eminence Samuel Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago and it was at this time that the name of the school was changed to Xavier’s College.
In the 1950’s and through most of the 1960’s Xavier’s College was well known for its high standard of Operettas, Glee Club, French Club, Art Club, Varsity Sports Club, Newspaper Club (The Alchemist), a Photography Club and a Girl Guide Company. Academically, a large percentage of students passed the Cambridge Overseas Examination and many girls also answered the call to religious life.
In 1966, an increase in student enrollment resulted in the need for expanded facilities at the West Bay Street campus. As a result, a decision was made to transfer the high school division of Xavier’s to St. Augustine’s College. Creating a newly established elementary school that is today known as Xavier’s Lower School.
The recently named school saw additional capital improvements including the construction of a swimming pool that was officially opened by His Excellency Governor Sir Ralph Cray and blessed by Bishop Paul Leonard Hagarty.
With the arrival of the 1970’s and after many years of challenges and triumphs, the Sisters of Charity found it necessary to withdraw from the school. This was due in part to the fact that it was becoming increasingly difficult to find Sisters to volunteer for The Bahamas Mission. As a result, more lay teachers were hired and by the end of 1970 the staff was 100% laity.
In June 1970, the Sisters of Charity departed from Xavier’s and Mrs. Jacqueline Bethel, a former student and a graduate of the College of Saint Benedict, was appointed as the first lay headmistress of Xavier’s Lower School.
During the 1980’s, the leadership of Xavier’s experienced many changes with the return of Religious Sisters as administrators: Sr. Genevieve Browne (1980-1983 and 1985-1986) and Sr. Mary Benedict Pratt, O.S.B. (1984 – 1985).
In 1987, leadership of the school passed to another Xavierite, Mrs. Diane Forsythe-Cepero. Changes under her administration included the installation of the Computer lab in the main building, the refurbishing of the auditorium, the construction of a fine arts building, which houses the relocated computer lab, a music room and an art room.
In 1999, Mrs. Cynthia Moss, took over the helm and sought to maintain what had been established by her predecessors. Mrs. Moss’ tenure was followed by Mrs. Denise Cooper- Louis who assumed leadership in 2007 and served as principal for the next eight years. Presently, the school of approximately 360 students is led by Mrs. Jacintha Goffe- Principal and Ms. Lesley Hutchinson-Vice Principal.”
Today, the administrative team along with faculty and staff members, proudly work to uphold the esteemed reputation of one of the oldest existing Catholic Schools in The Bahamas; ensuring that the name Xavier’s remains synonymous with excellence in education.