Shortly after St. Matthew the Apostle Parish was founded in 1959, a fund drive was initiated and ambitious plans were announced for the building of a church, a school, and a convent. By the summer of 1960, the buildings were well along in construction and on Saturday, January 7, 1961, the following article by Gary Hymel appeared in the New Orleans States-Item:
“Proud Catholics in the unincorporated area between Harahan and Kenner will dedicate a $415,000 parish plant tomorrow----just 18 months after the church parish came into being. New buildings to be dedicated at St. Matthew the Apostle Parish, 10021 Jefferson Highway, are a 750-seat church, a 16 classroom school, and a convent. Those buildings in addition to a rectory and a cafeteria are the evidence of a phenomenal building program that turned a clump of weeds into a complex of buildings bustling with activity.”
The school actually opened in September 1960 with an initial enrollment of 425 students in grades one through five. It was staffed with three sisters of the Society of St. Teresa of Jesus and nine lay teachers. The first principal was Sister Thelma Dexheimer, S.T.J. The sisters moved into their new convent on December 23, 1960.
A second school building was constructed and completed in August 1962 and grades six through eight were added in the ensuing years. The back building (as it is called) housed grades six through eight upstairs, while the library and kindergarten classes, which were also added, used the bottom floor. The cafeteria, which was formerly an old radio transmission building, was renovated in 1963.
A Pre-kindergarten 4 year-old program was started in 1991. A new Pre-kindergarten building was constructed the following year in 1992 near the rectory.
A fund drive was undertaken to build a new cafeteria in between the front and back school buildings. The old cafeteria, which partially blocked the view of the church, was torn down and the new cafeteria was constructed in 1999.
A Pre-Kindergarten 3 year-old program was started in 2005, followed by a Pre-Kindergarten 2 year-old program in 2010, and the Pre-Kindergarten 1 year-old program in 2017. As the 1 year-old program continued to grow, renovations to the old rectory were completed in 2019. This program now includes 6 week-old infants.
Later in 2019, the library was transformed into a Learning Studio/Library that can be used for STEAM activities, as well as story-time. This space is an environment that promotes collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking.
St. Matthew the Apostle School is constantly changing and updating to fit the needs of our students and our school community.