Frogtown had parochial schools including Saint Agnes (530 W. Lafond Av.), Saint Adalbert (260 W. Edmund Av.) and Saint Vincent (645 Virginia St.) Catholic schools and Trinity/Saint Stephanus and Saint Matthew’s (501 N. Dale St.) Lutheran schools. All but the Trinity/Saint Stephanus building are still standing.
St. Agnes Catholic School at 530 Lafond Avenue is Frogtown’s only remaining Catholic and parochial school. It opened in September 1888 with 160 pupils, under the direction of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Enrollment quickly grew to 532 pupils by 1889, and a fifth classroom had to be added in the building’s basement.
Students were taught in German and English until the World War I era.
The first school shared its brick building with the church and convent. The need for classrooms forced expansion into smaller parish buildings. The school had expanded from eight grades to inclusion of a two-year commercial department in 1911, and then a two-year high school program in 1934. Church leaders petitioned Archdiocese leadership in 1938 to open a full high school.
Ground was broken for a new school in May 1939. Students moved into the new building after the 1940 Easter recess. Look closely at the building and spot the old building’s cornerstone.
Saint Agnes’ classrooms saw steady growth, reaching enrollment of about 1,500 in the early 1960s. The Bandas Hall addition including a gymnasium was dedicated in 1970. The school itself is Gruden Hall. Both are named for former priests that served the congregation.
Over time more lay teachers were hired to replace nuns. The school’s first lay principal was hired in 1973.
School teams historically played outdoor sports and held practices at West Minnehaha and Como (now Scheffer) playgrounds. The school has strong basketball and baseball traditions and has won state titles.