The next year Notre Dame School opened its doors September 4 to approximately 130 pupils in Grades 1 to 8, fifty of whom were to stay as boarders. To look after these was Sister Yvonne of Jesus, Superior, Principal and teacher, with sister Louis Omer and Sister Angela helping with the teaching, Sister Madeleine as boys’ supervisor, Sister Rose Gertrude as girls’ supervisor and Sister Agatha as cook. A week later, Sister Ann Clementin opened the Notre Dame Business College with an enrollment of 12 students. They were all amazed at seeing the commercial room well equipped with typewriters and all the standard books usually found in any Business College. On October 22 Sister Jules Octave began teaching music with an enrollment of 35 pupils.
And so, school population increased in the barracks, each year adding another grade to the former until grade 12 was reached. The students engaged in extra-curricular activities especially in sports and dramatics. But despite the optimistic spirit of all concerned, each year the old barracks were getting older, and showed their resentment by letting the wind blow in at will, the rain leaking through the roof, and though the furnace kept going full blast the cold crept in. It was then decided to build a new Notre Dame School for the education of the children.
May 22, 1952 marks the blessing and official opening of the new Notre Dame School. In September of the same year, we find 13 Sisters on staff, with 258 students — 63 of whom were boarders — and 20 in the Business College.
Years passed. The city grew. Space needed for classrooms necessitated the closing of the boarding school. No longer able to finance Notre Dame, the Sisters “sold” the school to the parish in 1960. To bolster the diminishing ranks of the Sisters, Bishop O’Grady sent his lay apostles who gave of their time and their talent along with the Sisters, and for the same salary — room and board and a small monthly allowance.
The ways of God are sometimes strange and hard to fathom. The Sisters realized that because the parish still owed the entire debt still outstanding for the school, they would never be allowed to borrow money to construct the church that was so badly needed. The Sisters obtained permission to remit the entire debt and to give Notre Dame Parish the deed to the school. Hardly had the pastor announced these glad tidings to his flock on Easter Sunday, 1968 when in the silence of early dawn, Notre Dame School went up in flames. The Alma Mater which had been the joy and pride of its old students was no more.
Coming to the rescue, the Public School Board offered empty barracks to the parish in lieu of classrooms. And so, after only 16 years, the children of Notre Dame were again in barracks, so reminiscent of the humble beginnings when their parents were students.
Then came the denouement. The parish fell heir to the insurance money at replacement value on the building that had been donated to them just a few weeks earlier. The sum was substantial enough to give them the type of school that would meet today’s standards and bear comparison with any of the public schools around them.
And so, on the ashes of old Notre Dame and its hosts of memories, a beautiful new school proudly stands — an edifice worthy of the sacrifices of so many of Mother Gamelin’s valiant missionaries who toiled that others might reap so rich a harvest.