Note: The following is a brief synopsis of the history of St.Charles College. Those who seek a more complete version of the Pine St. years and the move to Garson should consult Memories of Saint Charles - an excellent collection of history written by Mr. John Joseph Kelly, a former teacher at the school.
The idea of St. Charles College was born in the early 1940's. Despite the fact that over 2000 children were enroled in Sudbury separate elementary schools, there was no local secondary institution. In 1944, Bishop R.H. Dignan of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie began to take preliminary steps to bring a Catholic boys high school to Sudbury. Although he had little immediate success, Bishop Dignan kept the idea alive for five years until adequate funding became available. The former Children's Aid Society shelter on Pine Street was selected to be its first home. Finally on September 5th, 1951, St. Charles College commenced classes for the first time. Basilian Father Mulcahy was the first Principal.
It wasn't long, however, before the student body outgrew its tiny building. In 1953/54, enrolment had risen to 155 students in grades 9, 10 and 11 - plans were now in the works to construct a building suitable for 640 students. The new St. Charles College opened on 12 September 1954 with 258 students from grades 9 through 12. St. Charles College had now officially established itself as an integral part of the community.
GARSON YEARS 1986-1993
What originally began as a small group of students in the early 1950's had expanded steadily through the years. St. Charles College became a significant presence among the secondary schools in the Sudbury region. The Catholic element of the school had certainly attracted many - the school's motto, "Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge," was an integral party of day-to-day life at St. Charles and contributed to the school's perpetually positive reputation. Other factors contributed to the steady influx of students: SCC had an excellent academic record, extracurricular activities flourished, while the school had established itself as an athletic powerhouse regularly bringing home city championships in sports such as football, hockey, soccer, basketball and volleyball. The projected enrolment for September 1986 was 900 - in a building designed for just over 600!
The school attempted to satisfy these increasing demands with portable classrooms and a second campus; however, it was quite clear that these facilities were insufficient. The Parent's Guild, under the leadership of Mrs. Marina Lamoureux, and the Student's Council, under the leadership of Darren Stinson, lobbied the School Board trustees intensely in hopes of finding a long-term solution to the overcrowding problem. Under the threat of all-out school closure, parents and students alike rallied around their cause. Petitions were circulated to parents as their movement gained momentum. Finally, the trustees offered a one-campus facility outside of the city: Garson-Falconbridge Secondary School. Although this solution was not the first choice of the parents, it was promised that the Garson location would not be permanent; eventually, parents were assured, the school would return to the city of Sudbury. As the school's new principal Mr. Herb Petras said, "buildings and objects are important, but it's people that make a school." The move to Garson was carried out!
The extra distance to Garson, it seemed, had no effect whatsoever on the St. Charles spirit. Students thrived at the new location. SCC Athletics continued to dominate the local scene with many city titles along with NOSSA and OFSAA championships in a variety of sports. The revitalized music program won several local and national awards at the Northern Ontario Band Festival and Musicfest Canada. Extracurricular activities elsewhere in the school flourished in the modern facility. The Thanksgiving canned food drive, which originated in the old building, generated greater enthusiasm every year - by 1993, over 20,000 cans were collected annually. Although the Basilian connection had diminished (Fr. Jim O'Neill, the last of the school's Basilian fathers, left St. Charles in 1992), the Catholic principles which the school was built on remained. By 1993, as fourteen portables sat in the back field, it was becoming clear once again that the Garson campus was not capable of handling the increasing demands on the school.
A FINAL RENEWAL 1993 AND BEYOND
For the students, the news seemed to come out of nowhere--the R.C.S.S. Board had negotiated an agreement with the Sudbury Public board for the transfer of a number of schools, including Nickel District Secondary School. This building, it was determined, would be the new--and permanent--home of St. Charles College. For the staff and administration, however, the decision had been the long-awaited result of many years of negotiations. St. Charles College would return to the city in which it was founded.
Shortly thereafter, rumours surfaced that a monumental change was about to take place: with the move to Nickel District in the fall, St. Charles College, a single-sex school since its inception, was to become a co-educational facility. A passionate debate ensued; surveys were studied, economic factors were considered, arguments were made on both sides of the issue. Finally, on 15 February 1993, School Board Trustees voted in favour of co-education. One of the primary determining factors in the decision appeared to be the amount of space in the new building. Nickel District had been built for 1250 students; a change to co-education would all but guarantee that the space would be filled for years to come. For the first time in the school's history, boys and girls would walk the halls of St. Charles College together as students.
Materials gathered by: James MacDonald