The Sisters of Providence
Catholic education in the Perth area actually dates back to 1818; however, it wasn’t until the arrival of the Sisters of Providence in 1893 that it became formalized. In 1926, the present St. John’s Separate School was constructed at 34 Wilson St. East for Grades 1 to 8.
A new era began for St. John’s in 1950, when Grade 9 was added to the school. In September 1950, St. John’s began its first high school class, with thirty-seven students in Grade 9. The following year, St. John offered both Grades 9 and 10.
Taking Up The Challenge
In 1977, Greg McNally became the first Principal since 1892 who was not a Sister of Providence. In the 1970’s it was difficult for St. John’s to retain its Grade 9 and 10 students, as many opted to attend the local collegiate where a greater number of courses were being offered. Mr. McNally held parent meetings and gained the overwhelming support of the Catholic community, with students coming to St. John's from Perth, Smiths Falls, Westport, Lanark, Carleton Place, Toledo and even from as far away as Almonte and Merrickville.
The Promise of Full Funding
On June 11, 1984, Premier William Davis announced that secondary funding would include Catholic schools beginning in September of 1985. In January 1985, the Board of Trustees voted to extend St. John’s to a complete high school. In September 1985, sixteen Grade 11 students started the newest phase of schooling at St. John’s in converted classrooms, hallways and on the gymnasium stage.
In 1987, the Lanark, Leeds and Grenville County Roman Catholic District School Board purchased and renovated the convent next door to the original school on Wilson Street. With the introduction of OAC (Grade 13) classes in September 1987, St. John’s was now a Junior Kindergarten to OAC school with ninety-six students in the secondary grades.
A Need For Larger Facilities
It soon became apparent that the original St. John’s School site was not going to be large enough to accommodate the ever-increasing student population. In September 1988, an enclosed portable structure was added to the convent, providing another eight classrooms, with additional portables being added to the back yard of the property in later years. In 1989, St. John’s was officially split into two distinct schools, with John McKenty being named the first Principal of St. John Catholic High School.
The school continued to share facilities with the elementary school, including the gymnasium and library as well as space for the high school’s first cafeteria and tuck shop. Meanwhile, Mr. Frank Musca, Director of Education for the Lanark, Leeds and Grenville Roman Catholic Separate School Board, continued to push the Ministry of Education to provide the money to build a new high school facility.
A New School
By 1989, Mr. Musca’s efforts would bear fruit and the Ministry of Education would allocate funds for the construction of a new high school facility to be located on the property of St. John parishioners, Frank and Florence Mitchell, adjacent to the Conlon Farm recreational area in Perth. Opening in September 1992, the new St. John Catholic High School housed a beautiful chapel, gymnasium, classrooms, computer labs, science labs, a communications technology lab, art and music rooms, cafeteria, library, administrative offices and student services area.
With its new facility, St. John Catholic High School continued to grow, as did its reputation for putting forth a strong academic and extra-curricular program. Its students continued to win numerous university and college scholarships, while its athletic teams captured many county championships.
Technology and The Future
In September 2001, St. John Catholic High School expanded the program at its home campus in Perth by opening a 6,500 square-foot technology building. Located behind the main school, the tech building could now offer students a full design and construction technology program.
In the spring of 2002, St. John Catholic High School began its second major expansion. This sixteen-room addition included classrooms, a foods services room, a religious studies room, a computer lab, a geography lab, a seminar room and a teachers’ work room. The addition was dedicated to the memory of Mr. Frank Musca, retired Director of Education, who had been instrumental in the building of the original St. John Catholic High School. The new addition linked the Technology building to the main building and the little school whose future was once in doubt was now ready for the 21st century.
From: Beacons of Faith: The Story of Our Schools, Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario, 2004