St. Raphael Nursery School circa 1970
With roots going back almost 50 years, we combine experience and tradition with the excitement and freshness of new beginnings...
Our beginnings go back as far as 1969, when St. Raphael Nursery School began in space rented from St. Raphael Church as a non-sectarian program for 3- and 4-year-olds. In the early years, SRNS operated as a semi-cooperative organization entirely run by parents. In 1989, the preschool began operating under the auspices of St. Raphael Parish. Today, with almost 50 years of experience, St. Raphael Nursery School offers one of the strongest and largest early-childhood programs in the area. Our director, Teri Dwyer, has been with the nursery school since 1989. She is an inspiring leader and integral to the warm and welcoming environment for which SRNS is known.
The dream of adding an elementary and middle school first materialized under our late pastor, Fr. Bill Finch. Parishioner demand—and wait lists at a neighboring Catholic school that we co-sponsored—led Fr. Finch to ask the archdiocese to expand St. Raphael through eighth grade. In June 2006, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, in one of his final acts as archbishop, dedicated St. Raphael School as the newest school in the Archdiocese of Washington.
In August 2006, St. Raphael School opened with 31 new students in kindergarten and first grade. Teri Dwyer was named principal. For the first five years, St. Raphael School operated out of the parish's Duffy Center, part of the original property that also houses St. Raphael Nursery School. During this time, plans were being drawn for a new building for St. Raphael School, which had been approved by the City of Rockville. In April 2009, before he could see his dream become a reality, Fr. Bill suffered a heart attack and died on Holy Thursday after celebrating Mass.
With courage and grace, Fr. Jim Meyers stepped in as pastor and continued the quest for our new building. In April 2010, amid much fanfare, Cardinal Donald Wuerl and St. Raphael School students donned hard hats, picked up shovels, and broke ground.
Just one year later, in May 2011, the students and staff moved into the St. Raphael Educational Building. That October, Cardinal Wuerl dedicated and blessed the new building. The students surprised the Cardinal and guests with a flash mob, where they danced, pom-poms in hand, to “We Go Together” from the musical “Grease.” Remarked Cardinal Wuerl, “I’m going to add that to my list of firsts. I know it’s the first time I’ve ever been actively part of a flash mob.”
Today, St. Raphael School is a state-of-the-art eco-friendly facility that offers not only large, light-filled classrooms, but also extra office and multipurpose space, a science lab, art and music rooms, and a school library and media center that overlooks the grounds. Nods to the community’s Catholic identity were subtly incorporated throughout the design, as illustrated by the tile floors inlaid with abstract cross patterns leading into each classroom.
After its inception, St. Raphael School grew by one grade every year. In 2013-14, SRS reached the eighth grade and its first graduating class—all in thanks to the members of the St. Raphael community and their commitment to Catholic education. As Fr. Meyers often said, "Fr. Bill may have planted the seed, but we, as a parish, have made it grow."
Fr. Bill with second-graders at Opening Day 2007
Cardinal Wuerl and students break ground in 2010