HISTORY OF THE GRANDE PRAIRIE ROMAN CATHOLIC SEPARATE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 28
The first Catholic education institution in the Grande Prairie area was established at St. Francis Xavier's Mission on Sturgeon Lake in 1907. When St. Vincent's Mission was established on Bear Creek in 1908, the brothers taught school to the Metis children of Flying Shot Lake, but not in a formalized system. In 1910, the townsite of Grande Prairie was laid out across Bear Creek from the Mission, and soon there were one-room schools both in the village and in the Flying Shot Lake District, so the Metis children went to the public schools. By 1927, there were enough parishioners to demand a separate Catholic School Board, so Grande Prairie Roman Catholic Separate School District No. 28 was formed. The school, named St. Joseph, was started with lay teachers, but by 1932 it was under the charge of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, with Sister Lucy as principal. This was the only Catholic School in the area until after World War II.
In 1946, Fr. Robert, OMI, encouraged the parishioners of Spirit River to create a separate school district. They appealed to the Grey Nuns, who were already running the hospital in Spirit River, to give them Catholic Education as well, but their request was denied. Finally, in 1948, Spirit River RC Seperate School District No. 36 was formed. Two new Grey Nun Sisters arrived from Montreal and Ste. Marie School opened in September. In the meantime, Fariview RC Separate School District No. 35 had established early in 1948 with the unanimous support of the parishioners. Within two weeks, a site was chosen and by September, a two-room school, named St. Thomas More, was finished and ready for classes.
For almost ten years, there was little change in the numbers of Catholic School districts in the area, then two were formed in quick succession. In 1955, Sexsmith RC Separate School District No. 51 was formed and St. Mary's School was built, taught by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. This school was supported by five rural auxilliary districts who could send their students to Sexsmith as well. In 1957, Beaverlodge RC Separate School District No. 68 was established, and St. Mary School opened in September 1958, taught by the Sisters of the Holy Cross traveling in from Grande Prairie. By 1959, a convent had been built beside the school to house the Sisters. Over the next years, several more rural districts were created but they all sent their children to the existing schools.
In 1989, a study considered the financial, governance and political implications of amalgamating the districts in a report titled "Feasibility of Amalgamating Separate School Jurisdictions in the Grande Prairie Area". The study covered four Catholic Separate School jurisdictions: Grande Prairie No. 28, Grande Prairie Rural No. 190, Beaverlodge No. 68 and Sexsmith No. 51. The study concluded that the Grande Prairie City and Rural could be combined but that Beaverlodge and Sexsmith would be adversely affected. An update in 1991 continued to pursue the idea, broadened now to Fariview and Spirit River. On August 31, 1994, the amalgamation of the Grande Prairie and District Catholic Schools became official. At that time there were three participating partners: Grande Prairie, Fairview and Spirit River. Beaverlodge and Sexsmith joined later to create one large district named Grande Prairie Roman Catholic Separate School District No. 28.
In 2019, the school board's name was changed to Grande Prairie Roman Catholic Separate School Division.
South Peace Regional Archives: http://southpeacearchives.org/
Grande Prairie Roman Catholic School District No. 28: http://southpeacearchives.org/grande-prairie-roman-catholic-school-district-no-28/