Cardinal returns to bless his school

Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, Sept. 24, blesses the high school in Northeast Edmonton named in his honour.


Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, Sept. 24, blesses the high school in Northeast Edmonton named in his honour.

October 6, 2014

With scissors in hand and a wide smile on his face, Cardinal Thomas Collins cut the red ribbon declaring the new Cardinal Collins High School Academic Centre officially open.

Dignitaries from the local Church, Edmonton Catholic Schools, the city and provincial government accompanied the former Edmonton archbishop at the Sept. 24 opening.

The Collins Academic Centre was built in partnership with the City of Edmonton and is attached to the Clareview Recreation Centre at 3802-139 Ave. It offers students an alternative way to complete high school or upgrade courses.

"I'm very honoured that they named a school after me; this is the first time it happened, and I am very grateful," Collins told the WCR prior to the ceremony.

"I'm also delighted to be back here in Edmonton. I spent many happy years here and the thought that there is a school named after me here in this city and diocese that I love so much is a joy."

The new school has 14 classrooms with an area of 22,500 square metres (242,300 square feet). Under an agreement with the city, the school district will lease the building for 30 years at a cost of $21 million. After the 30 years, the district will own the building.

Bill Moreau, principal of Cardinal Collins, said the academic centre offers an opportunity for high school students to work at their own pace in a non-traditional high school setting.

"This is a school of hope and opportunity," Moreau said, noting it will also provide students aged 18 to 20 opportunities to upgrade or complete their high school diploma and enter into post-secondary studies and/or the work world.

Currently, about 450 students are taking classes at the Collins Academic Centre. Students from any part of the city can attend the school as it is located on an LRT line.

"The coming together of a school, a recreation centre, a multicultural centre, a public library and a daycare in one building will allow the people of this community to have comprehensive access to the services essential for families," Joan Carr, superintendent of Catholic schools, said at the ceremony.

"Students here will have their needs met from pre-school to adulthood in this centre," Carr said. "The beauty of this centre is that it presents our students with a real world context for learning."


The two-storey academic centre does not have a gym or library, so it has formed partnerships with the Clareview Recreation Centre and the Edmonton Public library to use their facilities.

On the main floor, two large Fresh Start classrooms support modular self-paced learning for high school students aged 15 to 17. There is also a foods lab, two computer labs, a chapel/student centre and a classroom for Our Lady of Grace students.

Cardinal Collins students study in the room that doubles as a student centre and chapel.


Cardinal Collins students study in the room that doubles as a student centre and chapel.

Our Lady of Grace enables parenting teens to complete their high school diploma and learn life skills to support themselves as mothers.

On the second floor is the Ascension Collegiate Program for those aged 18 to 20. It is comprised of six classrooms for the teaching of all 30 level core subjects, including science, biology, chemistry, physics, English, math and social.

There is also an English Language Learner program for 18-to-20-year-olds who are new to Edmonton.

The chapel will be used for school celebrations, reflection and prayer. Cardinal Collins himself celebrated Mass for students and staff at the chapel Sept. 25.


During the opening, Collins said he will pray for the students and staff at the academic centre bearing his name and hopes they will do the same for him.

Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith congratulated Edmonton Catholic Schools for the centre, which he said reaches out to those who would appreciate and benefit from a second chance.

Board chair Cindy Olsen said the idea of a Catholic school attached to a recreation centre began to take shape about seven years ago when the city wanted land to build a recreation centre for Clareview and the only land available in the area was school land.

Edmonton Catholic would not sell its land but agreed to have a school attached to the massive new building.

The idea made sense, Olsen said, because the district had a number of schools in shopping centres that were expensive to run. Those schools have all been consolidated at the Cardinal Collins Academic Centre.