In 1903, a small two-room schoolhouse was constructed by Mr. John Wagner, a German farmer living in rural South Los Angeles. Naming it St. Michael’s in honor of his father, Michael, Mr. Wagner invited the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose to staff the school. The Dominican Sisters served as faculty and administrators at St. Michael’s until 2006. Five years after the school opened, St. Michael’s Church was established to serve the German and Irish Catholic families in South Los Angeles.
The first classrooms housed 43 students ranging from first to eighth grade. As enrollment increased, the school campus grew with the additions of the brick school building and auditorium in 1926 and the annex in 1955. Also in 1955, St. Michael’s High School was opened for girls.
In the summer of 1965, the Watts area of Los Angeles became the site of racial rioting, which also spread to our neighborhood and beyond. Following the riots, the ethnic composition of the school began to change and the school served mainly an African American population from Louisiana. During the 1980s, a number of families from Mexico and Central America, as well as a large population of black Catholics from Belize joined the school community. The Los Angeles Riots of 1992 impacted school enrollment as families lost property and employment and moved out of the area. Since the 1990s our Latino population has increased as families move into the area from Mexico and Central America. In 1995, St. Michael’s High School closed and merged with Regina Caeli High School. This merged school was renamed Queen of Angels Academy. In 2002, Queen of Angels closed.
The school underwent a major renovation in 2004 thanks to the J.F. Shea Company. Also in 2004, St. Michael’s School began a unique collaborative relationship with St. Frances X. Cabrini School, another school served by the Dominican Sisters. The two schools established a partnership in order to better share resources. All faculty and staff were hired as “one faculty and staff for two schools,” thus allowing for mobility between campuses as necessary. From 2004 to 2006, the two schools shared one principal, with a vice-principal on each campus. In the fall of 2006, the decision was made to separate and assign each school its own on-site principal. Today, the school is staffed by a qualified group of lay educators.