History and Heritage
The oldest of the former school divisions was St. Albert Roman Catholic Public District No. 3, formed in 1885, and later known as St. Albert Catholic School District No. 3. A legacy of teaching began in the district when the Sisters of Charity (founded by Ste. Marguerite d'Youville in 1737 and more commonly known as the Grey Nuns) arrived in St. Albert from Lac Ste. Anne in 1863. Construction of a small convent that served as schoolhouse and hospital when needed, was completed in 1864. Students were taught primarily by the Sisters of Charity. Instruction in French, English, grammar, mathematics, and Catechism was carried out however it was their philosophy of practical, moral, and religious learning that was emphasized. Boys learned agriculture, woodworking, and carpentry while girls concentrated on sewing, cooking, and gardening. Our heritage of excellence dates back to 1893 when students won several awards at the Chicago World's Fair. The former school district has been recognized on many occasions for academic, practical, and athletic excellence.
The Thibault Roman Catholic Public School District No. 35 dates back to the late 1800s. The district was named after Father Thibault who established a mission and school near Morinville. In 1892, the first Board of Trustees administered a humble school that, unfortunately, closed after just a few months. Seven years later, Father Jolicoeur revived the district, and it operated in a modest form until 1904. The Thibault district began to thrive when the Filles de Jesus congregation established its order in Morinville. The close relationship between the school district and religious order continued for many decades. Just a couple of years before the regionalization, Thibault School District opened Morinville Community High School. It is currently one of the most technologically advanced secondary schools in the province.
Legal School District No. 1738 was established in 1907, and the first school was built just south of the town. The influence of the Grey Nuns was evident in the district. Sister Marguerite Marie Côté served many years as principal and sole high school teacher. Tragedy struck in the mid 1940s when the school house burned to the ground. in 1952, the school building still in use (after numerous additions and renovations) was erected. Although French immersion was offered for the first time in 1980, Legal had been offering special advanced French classes in the decades prior. In 1993, the district dissolved its high school and bussed students to Morinville.
In 1994, discussions began among the three school districts on regionalization. On January 1, 1995 all three formerly independent school jurisdictions began to operate under the corporate name Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division No. 29.
During the time as a division between January 1, 1995 to June 20, 2012 the 17 schools operated in the communities of St. Albert, Morinville and Legal. The addition of a new elementary school in the community of Deer Ridge opened in in August 1998 and it’s namesake Jack Nearing was a former superintendent. French Immersion continued to be strengthened in all communities during this period with 6 schools offering either single track or dual track language (English & French) instruction in their schools.
The status of the division as “Catholic Public” met with some scrutiny and confusion among public and government. In the fall of 2010 a challenge to provide secular education in the community of Morinville was raised. To fully address this, new legislation titled Bill 4, was introduced on February 22, 2012 to change the status of the division to a Roman Catholic Separate School District and afford it the same rights and status of all other Catholic systems in the province. This change in legislation allowed for a public school provider to offer a secular education choice in the Town of Morinville and Legal. The St. Albert and Sturgeon Valley School Districts Establishment Act passed during the spring Legislative session and was proclaimed by the Lieutenant Governor on May 31, 2012.
On July 1, 2012, the legislation came into effect and the Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools legal name changed to Greater St. Albert Roman Catholic Separate School District No. 734. The district continued to operate under the Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools name. All schools under the previous division infrastructure remained except Georges P.Vanier School in Morinville which was reassigned by the Minister of Education to Sturgeon School Division for the provision of public secular education. At the same time, St. Albert Protestant became the public school provider in the City of St. Albert and also received a name change to reflect their new status as the public board.
With the new Roman Catholic Separate School status in the region, existing non-operating 4 by 4 districts of Cardiff and Cunningham were now included in the new district’s area.
150th Anniversary Celebrates First School Opening in 1864!
Beginning in September 2014, the District launched a yearlong celebration to mark the historic milestone of the first school opening in the region on Mission Hill. A yearlong celebration with more than 150 events were hosted for the students, staff and the local communities. The grand finale events took place in June 2015 with a Mass on the Hill and the Gala evening.
The celebrations honoured the founding members, the Sisters of Charity (more commonly known as the Grey Nuns) and a commemorative program and commemorative video captured some highlights from the past year and the history of the district.