​​​​​​​​​Saint Gerald School

9320 South 55th Court, Oak Lawn, IL 60453

Phone: (708) 422-0121

​Se Habla Español

The entrance to St. Gerald School as it looks today.

The school was rebuilt after the 1967 tornado.

Photo courtesy of Oak Lawn Library History Archives.

Twelve classrooms were destroyed following the Oak Lawn tornado of 1967. Thankfully, the children were not in school at the time.

Photo courtesy of Oak Lawn Library History Archives.

St. Gerald Church is on the 1st floor, with the school on the 2nd floor and an auditorium in the basement, ca 1947.

Photo courtesy of Oak Lawn Library History Archives.

The Beginning

St. Gerald School opened on September 9, 1929, in the original St. Gerald Mission Church, located at the northwest corner of 95th and Minnick Streets in Oak Lawn.  The school was founded by the Sisters of St. Francis from Clinton, Iowa, and three nuns Sr. Winifred, Sr. Patrick, and Sr. Lelia taught the first 134 students in grades 1-8.

The original church looked like a white frame cottage with eight stairs leading to double doors.  Inside the church, the 3rd - 6th grade students used the kneelers as seats and the pews as their desks.  Downstairs in the basement, the 1st and 2nd graders, along with  the 7th and 8th graders, were taught at card tables with blankets hung to separate the classes.  The classes shared one green chalkboard among them.

Just six days after school started, the cornerstone was laid for a new combination school/church building at the corner of 94th Street and 55th Avenue.  In mid-December of 1929, the building opened with the church on the first floor, an auditorium in the basement, and four classrooms and the nuns' quarters on the second floor.  The sisters taught two grades in each classroom.   The 'old' church on 95th Street became an assembly hall and a gym.  1932 saw the beginning of students being bused in to St. Gerald from Bridgeview, Burbank, Hickory Hills, Hometown, and all of
Oak Lawn.

St. Gerald High School

During this time many children did not go on to high school but worked instead on their family farm or in their family business.  In order to encourage further education since most high schools were quite a distance from Oak Lawn, the decision was made to add a high school in the new building.  For one year, from September 1932 to June 1933, twenty-five students in two classes attended St. Gerald High School.  Unfortunately, due to the Depression, the high school's enrollment dropped because students needed to go to work to help their families, and the high school was closed.

A New Addition

In 1949 a new addition to the school was completed, adding six new classrooms and a convent.  By 1957, due to the tremendous growth in the area, ten more classrooms were added to the existing school. Four others were built as a link between the church and the school, and the existing church was converted into six more classrooms.  A new church was also built.

A Growing Parish and School Community

Between 1956 and 1966  the population of Oak Lawn nearly doubled.  Two new Catholic parishes were established in Oak Lawn, and St. Gerald School grew exponentially.  The average class size was 60 students with double sessions (morning and afternoon) becoming a necessity.  By 1964 ten buses were transporting students to and from the school.

The Oak Lawn Tornado

At 5:27 P.M. on April 21, 1967, a tornado ripped through Oak Lawn, taking over thirty lives and causing millions of dollars worth of damage.  At St. Gerald twelve classrooms were completely destroyed and much damage was done to the rectory.  The St. Gerald community, nonetheless, felt grateful.  Had the tornado occurred one hour earlier, classes would still have been in session.  Had it been just one hour later, the fifth and sixth grade students would have been arriving for Confirmation classes.

Once the storm abated, parishioners formed a human chain to pass every textbook, desk, and piece of equipment still salvageable from the destroyed classrooms to the church basement.  Within ten days students were back at school.  The Oak Lawn community pulled together to provide classrooms for students at Brandt, Gasteyer, and Covington Schools, along with Burbank Manor Presbyterian,  Pilgrim Faith, and St. Germaine Churches.

During the 1967-1968 school year, mobile units were set up in the parking lot for the first graders, and the 7th and 8th grade students used the undamaged classrooms.  Other students were bused to Burbank Manor Presbyterian Church and St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. 

Not a parish to ever give up, the parishioners were determined to build again. On September 9, 1968, the new school with twenty-four classrooms and six renovated classrooms opened.


As you can see, St. Gerald School and Parish have quite a history, rich in tradition, faith, and determination.  That sense of history, deep faith, and steadfast determination carries through to today, where St. Gerald School is still.....a great place to be!

This summary is of the school's history as told in "St. Gerald: Oak Lawn, Illinois", a limited edition book published in 1984, and compiled from church documents, newspapers, and parishioner and former students' recollections.