For more than one hundred forty years there has been a Catholic school in Hagerstown. On August 28, 1874, the Sisters of Saint Joseph arrived to open the first school. Named Saint Joseph Academy, it was the first mission of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Maryland. Although there was little ready money in the parish, Father Jones raised funds and purchased property for $6,750.00 on March 31, 1874. This property was used for both the convent and the school. Later in the same year additions were made to the second and third stories.
The Sisters of Saint Joseph departed the parish in 1885 due to financial difficulties.
On August 10, 1885 five School Sisters of Notre Dame arrived at Saint Mary from Baltimore. School opened with the new Sisters in charge on September 4, 1885 and ninety children registered. Enrollment steadily increased each year.
By 1914 a total of 262 pupils in grades one through eight were taught by Sisters. The school was not restricted to Catholic children. A commercial school was added and the graduates of this school were always in demand by the business community of the town.
In 1930, Archbishop Michael J. Curley recommended that high school grades be added to the school. This was accomplished by the addition of several rooms to the original building.
In 1931 the name of the school was changed from Saint Joseph Academy to St. Mary Catholic School. The high school opened on September 12, 1932 with eleven juniors, twenty-three sophomores, and thirty-one freshmen. In 1943 a kindergarten was started in the Hamilton House adjacent to the school. Because of increased enrollment in the school, in 1955 a new Catholic high school, known as St. Maria Goretti, was built in the north end of Hagerstown on property purchased by Monsignor Francis Leary.
In 1959 an addition was attached to the original building. It housed a cafeteria, kitchen, all-purpose room, kindergarten, and four primary classrooms. This addition was built on the site of the Hamilton House and Gordon Building.
A renovation on the original building was undertaken in 1980. The classrooms were reconfigured; the first floor of the convent was converted into school offices and a library. The convent was moved to the second floor of the building.
The final addition to the primary building was completed in 2002. A third floor was added to the existing building housing four new classrooms. In 2012, SMCS added a pre-kindergarten program for four-year olds.
In September 2017, St. Mary Catholic School was recognized as a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U. S. Department of Education. The School’s commitment to promoting academic excellence and to providing students with a technology-rich environment were influential in SMCS receiving this honor. Following this designation, as part of the school’s strategic plan, SMCS widened its focus to include improving the current physical activity space. Therefore, during the summer of 2018, plans were put in motion that converted the current cafeteria (Pangborn Hall) into a gymnasium and turned the current physical education area (the Msgr. Passarelli Room) into the students’ dining area. The higher ceiling and increased space in Pangborn Hall lends itself to a more robust physical education program. In order to switch the uses of Pangborn Hall and the Msgr. Passarelli Room, the school kitchen was modernized with new appliances and redesigned to accommodate a new flow pattern for serving students, since the students will be eating across the hall from the kitchen instead of in Pangborn Hall.
Today the school draws students from many areas, contributing a uniqueness to the community. The faculty and staff strive to meet the challenges and changing needs of the students. Each child is seen as an individual with individual wants and needs.