The newly-constructed St. Joseph’s Morrow Park Catholic Secondary School is set to welcome students once pandemic restrictions are lifted. Regster photo

St. Joseph’s reborn at Morrow Park

  • January 14, 2021

Years of construction are finally complete and St. Joseph’s Morrow Park Catholic Secondary School just awaits the lifting of pandemic restrictions to welcome students to their new home.

With furniture moved in, faculty and students are eager to begin classes at the newly-completed school once COVID-19 remote learning mandates are lifted in southern Ontario. Students are scheduled to return to class Jan. 25, but there are concerns that the suspension of in-person learning could extend beyond that date.

“It’s such a beautiful building,” said Patricia Coburn, principal at the all-girls school since 2014. “It’s been such a long haul. Our students and parents have been so amazing and accommodating. They’re coming (to the new school) and I can’t wait for them to see it. With COVID-19 it’s going to be delayed unfortunately, but it’s not going to take away the complete excitement of students and teachers.”

The school dates back to 1960 when it welcomed the first 147 students to the former motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph at its day school and boarding school.

In 2006, the Sisters of St. Joseph sold Morrow Park, the property where the school is situated, along with the school for $40 million to Tyndale University College and Seminary. The Toronto Catholic District School Board leased the school building back from Tyndale.

Original plans for a new St. Joe’s had called for the school to move into Blessed Trinity Catholic School a block away, but in 2012 the TCDSB extended its lease with Tyndale in order to acquire a property across from the school.

The new building was set to open in September 2020 until COVID-19 thwarted plans. With construction shut down in April, the lost month meant the school was not able to gain occupancy of the new building in August as scheduled, which pushed the school opening to this month.

Although the new building wasn’t built with COVID-19 in mind, Coburn says the wide accessible hallways will make social distancing restrictions easier to implement. The new site, which includes four technologically enhanced classrooms, will also bare much of the character and history of the original building.

Carol Scaini, a St. Joe’s alumnae, has been instrumental in having the St. Joseph Relief Wall and Sisters of St. Joseph Crest transported from the old building and installed in the new. Scaini, along with her sister Diane, who also attended the school, have also made a donation and are helping to co-ordinate fundraising efforts for a wall dedicated to the Sisters of St. Joseph as the founders of the school.

Scaini graduated from the school in 1989 and says it was the inspiration of the staff in large part that led her to a career in education and why it was so important for her to contribute the historical piece in the new building project. She currently teaches physical education and guidance in the Peel District School Board and continues to stay in touch with many of her former teachers.

“I loved St. Joseph Morrow Park,” she said. “The school really made a difference for me as a student. I was involved in student parliament as the deputy premier and was heavily involved in sport teams and anything that was happening at the school. I’m one of those alumni that hasn’t stopped staying in touch. I still have contacts with a lot of my teachers who were so instrumental in making me the person that I am today.”

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