Then & Now

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School

January, 2020

In the early 1990s, Spruce Grove was praying for a new Catholic high school. At that time, St. Marguerite Catholic High School, built in 1983, was housing both high school students and junior high students, and from 1987-1988, was forced to attach eight separate portables to the school in order to have enough classroom space. In 1991, construction began on what would become the community’s saving grace, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School (STA), with its projected 250 student capacity.


The $4.2-million-dollar St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School, completed in July 1992, became Spruce Grove’s third Catholic school. Its completion kicked into motion a relocation project between the two prior existing Catholic schools that would be carried out over that summer. STA would now house students Grades 10 to 12, while St. Marguerite would become a junior high school, taking in pupils Grades Five to Nine. The oldest of the three community-based Catholic schools, St. Joseph Catholic School,
was in turn converted from both a junior high and elementary school into just an elementary school which taught kindergarten as well as youngsters Grades One to Four. St. Marguerite principal at the time, Mel Malowany, who would become principal of STA when classes began in September, told The Spruce Grove Examiner, “The move won’t mean a change in school programming, all we’re doing is changing facilities.”

The new high school, which was built directly to the west of St. Marguerite, featured a larger gymnasium, two business labs, two science labs, as well as a two-sided cafeteria and a lounge area for students. The close proximity of STA and St. Marguerite was designed to allow the two schools to share facilities such as gymnasiums, drama rooms, and music rooms in order to better accommodate the students.


During the Alberta economic boom of the 2000s, Spruce Grove witnessed a large increase in young families moving to the city. By 2010, a census showed that there were over 2,000 children under the age of four living in the community. Two years earlier, it was already apparent that student populations were on the rise. Therefore, in December 2008, it was announced that a new Catholic high school – later named St. Peter the Apostle – would replace STA in September 2013 in order to help alleviate the overcrowding at other Catholic schools in the area. Due to a rising population of Grades Five to Eight students, the plan was to once again go through a relocation process, in which STA would be turned into a facility to facilitate that age group. Meanwhile, St. Marguerite would become a kindergarten to Grade Four school, helping to split the massive K-4 population that existed at St. Joseph.

Even though STA’s student capacity grew through the addition of portables from a measly 250 in 1992 to a whopping 750 in 2008 in order to continue functioning as the city’s only Catholic high school, the Evergreen Catholic Schools board decided that it would instead better serve the future of Spruce Grove as a junior high school. In January of 2008, the school board hosted a meeting at STA where parents from Stony Plain, Spruce Grove, and Devon could all be informed of what exactly was going to happen over the next five years, as well as submit name suggestions from themselves and their children for the new high school. 


As STA soon realized, the only problem with it becoming a Grade Five to Eight school was that because it was built for senior high students, there was no playground on the property. So, in November of 2012, STA hosted its first Christmas market for holiday shoppers where the school’s Catholic fundraising committee raised over $5,000 in an effort to aid the construction of a new playground by the summer of 2014. The event featured 30 vendors and a 12 table-long display of baked goods provided by STA families. By April of 2013, the school had raised $50,000 and was well on its way to its goal of $120,000, at which point it would be eligible for a matching grant from the government. In May of 2013, the school held another fundraising event called “The Spring Fling,” where a variety of items were put up for auction including hockey jerseys and memorabilia, a box and mattress donated by The Brick Warehouse, a stainless-steel gas barbeque, and a number of gift certificates and gift baskets.

In 2010, Evergreen Catholic Schools took it upon itself to create a better support system in its district so that each of its schools would have the ability to properly intervene when students were dealing with any variety of issues. This included hiring instructional coaches who would focus on supporting and stretching instructional practices with the main goal of impacting student learning. Also added were counselors who would implement important supports for students including behavior plans, mentorship programs, student retreats, one-on-one visits and grief support groups. Other hires included education coordinators who would ensure that all students have the supports and accommodations they require in order to successfully achieve their potential. This enhanced support system would come in handy in May 2016 when STA and other Evergreen Catholic schools found themselves welcoming into their classrooms a number of student evacuees of the Fort McMurray wildfire.

STA currently remains a junior high school with the mission of educating in an atmosphere of faith, hope, and love, and preparing students to live as compassionate, confident, and contributing citizens. Students today can join the school’s art and ski clubs, compete on athletics teams, play in the school band, run for student council, perform at the talent show, and of course, enjoy their playground. t7x