The way things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sarnia reduced to a single Catholic elementary school within the next two decades or so.
Consider this: When I was sent off to my first day in kindergarten back in the late 1950s, it was as a student at St. Peter’s School in central Sarnia. Or more specifically, an annex to St. Pete’s.
But I digress. St. Peter’s is closed now. Not that I am nostalgic for the place because I hardly remember it. That’s because in Grade One I was sent to the brand new St. Helen’s School on Hay Street. Like St. Pete’s, it’s long gone.
One year at St. Helen’s (I forget which grade I was in) we were bused downtown once a week to take shop class at Our Lady of Mercy School. OLM, too, belongs to the history books.
In Grade Seven I was sent – along with my entire class – to St. Benedict’s School in the south end. St. Ben’s is gone too.
From there it was on to St. Pat’s High School on Bright Street, which closed years ago (although the school lives on at another location). While at St. Pat’s we walked over to St. Margaret’s elementary school to attend shop class. St. Marg’s was shuttered some time ago.
I was thinking of all of this when I read recently that Sacred Heart School in Sarnia’s north end will close in 2020. And of course St. Edward’s in Point Edward died decades ago, along with St. Joseph’s in the south end.
By my count, eight Sarnia Catholic elementary schools will have closed in my lifetime once Sacred Heart goes. A few new ones have opened of course – Holy Trinity, St. Anne’s and St. Matthew’s come to mind. I don’t count St. Michael’s in Bright’s Grove as an addition to the numbers because there was a St. Mike’s out that way decades before the new one was built.
Going to the St. Clair Catholic District School Board web site, I counted six English-speaking R.C. elementary schools in the urban Sarnia area. Once Sacred Heart goes that number will be five. I believe there were once 10, although I’m not 100 per cent sure Gregory Hogan was around at the same time as St. Edward’s.
In any case, as the numbers continue to fall you have to wonder what will be left of the system 25 years from now.
Plans call for the 300 kids at Sacred Heart to go to Hogan. But will they? Some parents will undoubtedly send their kids to a nearby public school (maybe King George or Bridgeview) rather than have them bused. That was the case for a number of families when St. Helen’s was closed. Rather than have them bused some parents opted to send their children to Rosedale Public School, which was directly adjacent to St. Helen’s.
Because there are fewer Catholic schools, the loss of any one of them hurts a little more than is the case for the public system. The next closest separate school is always further away than is the case when public school students are looking for a new home.
As more and more schools are demolished, distances between Catholic schools will continue to grow.
There are no bad guys in all of this and I don’t see a solution, unless Sarnia’s population takes off. It’s just the new reality.