St Leonard’s Separate School

In 1957 the growing Catholic community of Britannia decided to build a new 10 room Separate School facing Rob Roy Ave, next to Grant Public School on Richmond Road. The land was treeless, but not built on, so it was either groomed as part of Poulin’s Loma Cottage property which it backed onto, or was old farmland.

Grant School center left, Rob Roy lower right corner

In Dec of 1957 it was announced that the School’s name would be “St Leonard’s.” St Leonard’s opened in the Fall of 1958, and then in Feb three classes from the over crowded ‘Our Lady of Fatima’ at Woodroffe were moved over to St Leonard’s.

By 1962 crowding was so severe that an additional five classrooms were approved for St Leonard’s, and six were actually added. Even this was not enough for the burgeoning Catholic population and in 1963 another school was approved for nearby DuMaurier Street, next to St Remi Church (which had replaced St Bonaventure in Britannia), and was completed in 1965.

1965 Portables have been added to accommodate Baby Boomers

On Sept 3 1968 the nucleus of ‘Britannia Bay Catholic School’ began at St Leonard’s. It moved to it’s permanent home on Ahearn at the end of the month, and in 1970 was renamed as ‘Dr F.J. McDonald Catholic School’.

In Feb 1971 a serious explosion at St Daniel means their grades 5 & 6 classes were switched to St Leonard’s until the damage could be repaired. By this time St Leonard’s has the room even though the portable classrooms are gone as the post-war Baby Boom had already crested and enrollment was starting to decline.

1971. The temp buildings are gone as declining enrollment means they are no longer needed

Through the 1970s enrollment continues to decline and in 1978 St Leonard’s is looking at merging classes to reduce costs. Parents are not amused and public meetings are held.

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The Ottawa Citizen, 19 Sep 1978, Tue,  pg 4

Enrollment decline continues, and in 1984 the school is down to 14 staff and 240 students. The decision is made to close St Leonard’s at the end of the June, 1984. Instead the more central ‘Our Lady of Fatima’ which had been closed for 11 years is refurbished and reopened in 1985.

The old St Leonard’s building is put up for sale and the Letter Carriers Union expresses interest in using it for the national office, with considerable renovations of course. The community is divided, fearing a drop in property values, increased traffic, and some are hoping for the building to be used for some sort of community centre or public services.

In July 1986 City Council votes against the Letter Carrier’s proposal. The Union appeals and in Oct Council votes against them again, this time voting to permit only housing on the old school property.

In 1988 the former school is demolished and Giamberardino Homes gets approval to build 26 semi-detached units on the property.

Over it’s 25 years of operating several thousand students, not to mention a couple of hundred staffers must have passed through St Leonard’s. It’s a little sad that the school has pretty much disappeared without a trace. On the internet there are no pictures, stories or memories that I could find, except one.

Except for archived newspapers, this paragraph from a geocache site is the only trace of St Leonard’s that I found on the internet:

St. Leonard’s School was the archrival of Grant Public School, which was directly adjacent to the West of St. Leonard’s, on the other side of the fence. Many a snowball or mud-ball would “inadvertently slip” out of my hands and over the fence. I never could figure out how the snowballs built up such great speed by just “slipping” out of my hands. After all, I was such a young innocent wee lad attending a Catholic school, and would never consider such immature behaviour (I’m trying to say this with a straight face)…

I have similar memories from the Grant School perspective, with the added point that the kids we exchanged snow and mudballs with (and butternuts in season) were the same friends that we walked to and from school together with every day.


Girls Lacrosse team, St. Leonard’s School in St Andrews, Scotland 
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