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Toronto Catholic District School Board

School History And Tradition
 
The history of Our Lady of Perpetual Help School is tied closely to the history of two “parks”, the adjoining Toronto neighbourhoods of Deer Park and Moore Park.
 
Deer Park originally extended from Avenue Road in the West to Yonge Street in the East, north from St. Clair Avenue to just north of the present Heath Street West.  It covered the forty acres which Mrs. Agnes Heath, widow of Colonel Heath, and her son, Charles W. Heath, bought from the wife of Chief Justice John Elmsley in January of 1837.  On the property Charles Heath kept deer which would regularly gather at the small hotel at Yonge and St. Clair, much to the delight and amusement of the guests.  Thus, the area around Yonge and St. Clair, the few buildings in which, in the 1850’s, consisted of the hotel, St. Michael’s cemetery, St. Charles School, and a handful of country houses became known generally as Deer Park. By 1909 this was a well-established residential neighbourhood, newly amalgamated with the City of Toronto.
 
Moore Park is named for John Thomas Moore, a chartered accountant and far-sighted developer, who, in 1889, laid out the subdivision which is the present day neighbourhood of Moore Park, although development of the neighbourhood did not begin until 1919.
 
Just south of St Clair Avenue and west of Yonge Street, St. Michael’s cemetery was established in 1855, overlooking but well away from the city.  It served the needs of Toronto’s growing Catholic population from 1857 until 1900 when the last burial there took place.  When St. Basil’s parish was established in 1856 the parish decided to build a one-room wood-frame schoolhouse for the Catholic children in the Yonge Street, Deer Park area.  At the present-day 1414 Yonge Street, just next to the cemetery, on Wednesday, April 28, 1858, St. Charles School opened. It was named for Charles B. Vincent, second Superior of the Basilian Community, who came from France.      
 
On September 1, 1873 the Sisters of St. Joseph took charge of the school.  The teacher was Sister Emerentia O’Brien.  In 1880 a new two-room brick school building replaced the wood-frame schoolhouse.  On October 9, 1881, Mass was said in the new school building to celebrate its opening.  On September 1, 1916, given the great demands for the teaching services of the Sisters of St. Joseph, the school was once again run by lay staff.
 
On January 9, 1923 St. Charles School relocated to its present site in Moore Park, staffed by the Sisters of the Loretto Community.  On February 20, 1923 the Archdiocese of Toronto founded a new St. Charles parish to serve the Moore Park neighborhood, with the old brick schoolhouse by the cemetery serving as its church.  The first pastor, Father Francis Pennylegion, early in 1923, changed the name of the parish To St. Catherine of Siena in honour of the great mystic who lived from 1347 to 1380 and who was canonized in 1461. The name of the school thus was also changed to St. Catherine of Siena. In September 1925 Father Pennylegion resigned from the parish and in 1926 became the founding pastor of Blessed Sacrament parish in north Toronto.  On September 8, 1925 Father Francis J. Morrissey was appointed pastor.  He immediately changed the name of the parish to Our Lady of Perpetual Help whereupon the name of the school was changed to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.   On June 15, 1930 the first Mass was said in the church at St. Clair Avenue East and Clifton Road which remains the parish’s home.
 
From 1925 to 1931 the senior high school grades 11, 12 and 13 of De La Salle Bond Street School were moved to six classrooms at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School.  These senior grades remained part of De La Salle Bond Street but became known as De La Salle Moore Park.  The students of De La Salle Moore Park achieved fame for the high quality of the dramatic productions staged annually at Massey Hall by Brother Gabriel.     
 
In 1963 a new wing was added to the school.  In 1981 Brother Xavier of the Brothers of the Christian Schools [“FSC”] took on new duties at De La Salle College “Oaklands”, ending a ten year term of service as the last teacher at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School to be a member of a Religious Community.
 
Our Lady of Perpetual Help School has won many awards over the years.  In 2005 and again in 2007 the Garfield Weston Foundation recognized the school for Overall Academic Excellence in being among the top one percent of elementary schools in Ontario for sustained academic achievement.  The Toronto Catholic District School Board Exemplary Practice Awards were first introduced for the 1999-2000 academic year, recognizing local school initiatives that are exceptional examples of innovative and dynamic approaches to program and service delivery.  For 2001-2002 Our Lady of Perpetual Help School was awarded an Exemplary Practice Award for its program formally recognized as Volunteers, Making a Difference, to promote the partnership between school, parent and child.  In 2005 the school again was recognized with an Exemplary Practice Award for the collaborative effort its staff brings to the school continually to improve student achievement.  In October 2005 the school was honoured for its participation in the Licensed to Learn [L2L] tutor training certificate program, a student peer tutoring program.
 
The first 150 years of Our Lady of Perpetual Help School have been interesting and distinguished.  Happy Birthday and best wishes for the next 150 years!