Sherwood Park 50 years
May 10, 2006
At the opening of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Parish Priest Father Kenneth Kearns stated, "You never have a Parish unless you have a separate school." Inspired by these words, a meeting was held in Moe Salm's living room, where it was decided to form a school district. An almost unanimous vote by parishioners in November 1962 confirmed the formation of the Salisbury Roman Catholic School District (later changed to Sherwood Park Catholic Separate School District, and then to Elk Island Catholic Separate Regional Division). Three trustees were elected: Dan Engel, Moe Salm and Roland Boisvert.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help School (OLPH) was built in just five months at a cost of just $15 a square foot! This example of "an efficient school building program" was brought to the floor of the Alberta Legislature. In September 1963, Sister Maureen Ryan, the school principal, welcomed 240 students in grades one through nine. The six-room school expanded three times over the years in response to increases in attendance: in 1964, 1966 and 1979.
The first students at OLPH wore uniforms; the girls wore blue tunics, white blouses and red ties and the boys wore red shirts and blue corduroy pants. The uniforms were phased out after a few years.
Oleh Cherkawski, a Sherwood Park resident since 1956, sent his children to the Salisbury Rural School and the Campbelltown school until OLPH opened. He recalls that his older children traveled to St. Mary's and Austin O'Brien schools in Edmonton since there was no Catholic high school in Sherwood Park. His younger children, however, attended Archbishop Jordan High School (ABJ), after it opened in 1969.
The high school had an initial enrolment of 264 students in Grades seven to ten, eventually expanding to include grades eleven and twelve. There were 57 students in the first graduating class of 1972, compared to about 250 in 2006.
Schools in the Catholic School District had a history of sharing their space. In 1967, students from Father Kenneth Kearns School were housed at OLPH for 4 months until their school was completed. OLPH students attended in the morning and FKK students had afternoon classes! OLPH also hosted ABJ students for the first term until their school was completed, partitioning the gymnasium to provide classroom space. ABJ returned the favour to students of Jean Vanier School, who shared space in the high school for their first year in 1972.
In a 1987 booklet celebrating 25 years of Catholic education, the then chairman of the Board of Trustees Ted Paszek wrote, "I salute the people of vision who founded this system and I salute those who have followed to keep the dream alive."
The Catholic Schools of Sherwood Park
- OLPH Catholic School - 1963
- Father Kenneth Kearns Catholic School - 1967
- Archbishop Jordan Catholic High School - 1969
- Jean Vanier Catholic School - 1972
- Madonna Catholic School - 1974
- St. Theresa Catholic School - 1977
- Holy Spirit Catholic School - 2004
See also: Information on current local schools.