Excerpted from the St. Matthew 25th Anniversary Cookbook
ST. MATTHEW SCHOOL 1965 THROUGH 1990
It is interesting how schools begin. St. Matthew School started September, 1965, but the building was not ready for occupancy until December so chartered busses picked students up in Brevoort Park and transported them to St. Philip School for classes. I recall that for classrooms our students occupied the stage in the gym, the gym floor, two regular classrooms and a portable trailer. Student assemblies were always held jointly in the gym. However, when we had a St. Matthew Staff meeting, it was always held in the furnace room.
I taught the grade seven and eight class in the trailer behind the school Everything was fine until the winter came in November and we started to plug holes and insulate windows with scarves and odd items of cloth. In geography class it was a little incongruous discussing the tropical regions while a December snowstorm engulfed us. It was humorous, really, all of us in that trailer, fully dressed with winter clothes carrying our mathematics and literature and exploring Mesopotamia and Palestine in religion. The students took it all with good spirit. They were as bright and mischievous a group as ever there was. Novice bus drivers learned this quickly on two or three occasions when students had given wrong directions, thus enjoying a free tour of other suburbs before arriving at school twenty minutes late. Parents were young, vigorous enthusiastic and amazingly resilient and tolerant while waiting for these temporary arrangements to end. I often recall seeing parents and families rubber-booting it on Arlington Avenue and the adjoining crescents before they were fully paved. There was no doubt Brevoort Park was a brand new suburb It was a beautiful and well-planned community, which would become a model for future neighbourhood developments in Saskatoon.
It was an exciting day on December 8, 1965, when we occupied St Matthew School. It was a joyous day. We all were elated with the crisp newness of the building, the large spacious corridor and the attractive entrance way. Here, then, we were at home and St. Matthew School was ready to begin its tradition.
The spirit of cooperation which exists at St. Matthew has made it unique Under the fine example and guidance of staff and parents, the students have excelled in academics and athletics over the years and gone on to make their families proud. Long time secretary, Jean Rissling, stated that it is the people that make St. Matthew special. "I have never run into a really bad kid or miserable parent at St. Matthew."
The school started out relatively small in 1965 with 120 students. Staff that year numbered seven. Students were bussed to St. Philip school for the first few months until the new school was ready. Enrolment nearly doubled for the second year. Mr. Ed Werbicki, principal from 1966-70, "vividly and pleasantly'' recalls the growth of the school . He further states, "Then there was that year St. Matthew took top honors in the city track and field meet . . . what an achievement and honor to the school!"
Initially classes were doubled up for grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. This soon changed. By 1968 classes were separate. In the early 1970's groups of 40-45 students per grade level were characteristic.
Structurally, the school has undergone some changes since the early years. The area which now houses the library and computer room was added prior to the gymnasium which came in 1972. In 1981 the north-west wing was added.
St. Matthew now sits on a beautifully landscaped yard on a paved street. This is a drastic contrast to the beginning. There was a swamp in the back and a muddy street in the front. The creative playground designed by the staff and parents in 1980 has been enjoyed by many of our children. The first students had snowball fights with the Brevoort Park School kids for their recreation.
Brian Noonan, principal from 1975-81 wrote the following on the French Immersion program: "Probably the most important change which occurred between 1975 and 1981, was the implementation of a French bilingual program at St. Matthew school in 1978. At that time St Paul was the only French bilingual program in Saskatoon. Parents of St. Matthew were instrumental in encouraging the Catholic board of education to start a kindergarten to grade 2 at the school. Since then of course other bilingual programs have been started in various parts of the city, though St. Matthew is considered something of a 'flagship'."
The beautiful stained glass window at the front of the school illustrates the caring attitude of St. Matthew families. It was constructed to commemorate 1981, the year of disabled people. With the same attitude, St. Matthew held a citizenship court in 1985 to welcome immigrants to Canada. In attendance were dignitaries and judges.
Additions to the school in the past couple of years include an icon in the front entrance dedicated to the millennium of the Ukrainian Catholic church in 1988 and a computer room in 1989. The school just keeps getting better and better!
Ray Phaneuf, principal from 1982-88 recalls high academic and athletic achievement by our students. The standard of excellence has not deteriorated since the girls track team in the mid-1960's was known as "the giant killers." Mr. Phaneuf stated that he had "nothing but fond memories" of his term. Though over the years, the staff and student body has changed, the wonderful spirit of cooperation has remained the same and makes the school the successful close knit community that it is.