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Education in St. Paul

St. Paul School, c. 1910

In 1897, the Oblate Fathers undertook the construction of St-Paul-des-Métis' first school. They recruited members of the Sisters of Assumption religious order, who would play a major role in the early education of the community. The choice to bring in the Sisters to take over the education of the Métis was simple. Bishop Grandin had long desired to have the order in charge of all the schools in his Diocese. As work on the first industrial school began in 1900, life would prove difficult for the Sisters. They occupied the original small log schoolhouse first used as a residence by the Oblates and operated without government assistance. In addition, some of the first to work at the school became seriously ill shortly after arriving. The completion of the school took longer than anticipated, with construction carrying over into 1902. In January 1905, a fire started by an arsonist destroyed the school and resulted in the death of one student.

In its earliest days, instruction in St. Paul was in French and rigorously followed the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. As the town was opened to outside settlement, a public school board was established in 1910 to meet the needs of the growing number of school-aged children. By 1942, the Municipal District of St. Paul had been created.

Yvonne Charron

Although all of the first students in St. Paul were French-speaking and Roman Catholic, the introduction of the Alberta School Act made English the only language of instruction. Students were limited to only one hour of French instruction a day, until the act was amended in 1925, and again in 1968. As the number of non-French-speaking immigrants to St. Paul grew, the calls for an alternative school grew louder. In 1956, Glen Avon School was opened to cater to the educational needs of the growing English, Protestant community. Currently, Glen Avon is one of only two Protestant schools in Alberta.

In 1998, Education Minister Gary Mar announced that a single Francophone authority would be responsible for all Francophone programs not administered by public or separate school boards. Many members of Alberta’s Francophone community opposed this plan, and a committee was formed in 1999 to provide recommendations. The community placed significant pressure on the government to reverse the decision to switch to one province-wide authority.

Today, St. Paul is part of the St. Paul Education Regional Division #1 and the East Central Francophone Education Regional Division. It serves over 4,000 students (K-12) in six schools located in the town of St. Paul, and six in the County of St. Paul. Post-secondary education is available through the Portage College and Blue Quills First Nations College.

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