Ecole St. Mary open house offers a glimpse of high school life

Daily Herald File Photo Ecoile St. Mary principal Dwayne Gareau leads a tour during the St. Mary Open House in March, 2023. The Prince Albert Catholic School Division board approved the calendar for 2024-2025 on Monday evening.

The next generation of St. Mary High School students had a chance to look at their future school on Wednesday night during the first of two open houses.

Ecole St Mary Principal Dwayne Gareau said the evenings are a way to help ease the transition for families with a child entering high school for the first time.

“It’s a way for them to get into the building, both the parent/guardian, as well as the student and to just have a look at all of the programs we have to offer,” Gareau said.

“If they do choose our school, (and) we hope they choose our school, this allows them to see the building so there is just a little bit of familiarity with it prior to getting here.”

Gareau said the biggest change for students will be the size of the school. St. Mary is a lot bigger than any elementary school in the city, and the St. Mary principal said that alone can take some time to adjust to.

“I always say that after a few days it’s not intimidating at all,” he explained. “You really find your way around quickly.”

Gareau and vice principals Jason Bourdon and Lydia McLeod explained different parts of the school and the school culture. Then they took students on a tour of the whole building, showing off classrooms and different programs available for students.

Gareau said they want to create an atmosphere where students can picture themselves taking those classes.

“We want to show the whole school because we don’t know what their interest may be,” he said. “They might not even know what they are interested in so they can suit their interests. That is why we do show them throughout the whole school.”

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Principal Dwayne Gareau addressed the crowd before the tour of Ecole St. Mary High School during their open house on Wednesday.

The tour group on Wednesday was split between Gareau, Bourdon and McLeod. Throughout the tour, the groups made stops in Learning Leader classrooms for Science and other courses.

“There are a couple of the Learning Leaders here that we show in their classrooms and they talk about those specific programs,” Gareau explained.

There are also opportunities to do small tours that occur during the school day.

“Sometimes we actually like showing our building during the school day because they actually can see it in operation (and) can see what it’s like,” he said. “It is a different experience for those that are still maybe undecided, or they could make one of these two nights. We do set up those private tours, especially if it is an out of town kid they may not be able to get here.”

The tours are open to those enrolled in the Catholic Division, out of town or in other school divisions.

Gareau is a St. Mary alumnus as well as a teacher, and said he could relate to students dealing with a lot of change in their lives.

He recently completed his first month as Principal after former long-time Principal Mark Phaneuf announced his retirement and transitioned to an acting superintendent position at the Division office.

“I have been eight years in admin within the school and spent the previous 11 years working in the school. It’s, I will call it the same, but different. Ultimately I had great mentorship with Mark and we had a great working relationship, so the transition has been very smooth. It has been exciting. It has been busy, but it’s been great,” Gareau said

The open house tours continued on Thursday evening.