WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s newest Catholic school, Gonzaga Middle School, will open in September serving Winnipeg’s Point Douglas and North East Downtown neighbourhoods.
“Gonzaga will operate inclusively, being open to a variety of cultural traditions and expressions of spirituality, including Christian and indigenous traditions,” says principal Tom Lussier. “We want our students to learn and respect their own faith and spiritual traditions, to understand where they come from and who they hope to become. Leaders from the community have provided their advice and expertise as planning for the school has moved forward.”
The school will start with 20 Grade 6 students and will grow to about 60 students (Grade 6 - 8) by 2018. Tuition is free but, in return, students and their families must commit to a longer school day of 8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., which includes time for tutoring and homework, and at least two weeks of summer programs, including camps.
“The primary factor will be need. It’s for kids beneath the poverty line or very near,” said Lussier, who brings over 30 years of experience as a teacher and 11 years as principal of St. Paul’s High School in Winnipeg.
Gonzaga is modelled after Nativity schools run by the Jesuits in inner-city neighbourhoods across the United States. Mother Teresa Middle School, which opened in Regina in 2011, was the first such school in Canada.
The 10,000-square foot Gonzaga Middle School property at 174 Maple Street North is a renovated former Ukrainian Catholic school building, and includes a kitchen, library, gymnasium and staff rooms.
The school’s Board will lobby private business, foundations and corporations for funding to cover costs, including school uniforms, transportation to and from school, summer programming and daily meals of breakfast, lunch and snacks. The school can apply for provincial grants after a three-year waiting period.
The first school for boys from low-income families having difficulty with high school was founded by the Jesuits in 1971 in New York City and was called Nativity Mission centre. Since then, more than 60 Nativity-model schools for all-boys, all-girls and co-educational classes, based on the best-practices and success of the original school, have been created and sponsored by Catholic and non-Catholic groups.
Through the 1990s and 2000s a group of similar schools were started by the De Lasalle Christian Brothers under the Miguel school banner. A network was formed known as the Nativity Miguel Network that brought together all of these schools.
According to the school’s website at www.gonzagamiddleschool.ca, Gonzaga’s philosophy is “to lower barriers to educational advancement and success through its academic program, longer school day, before and after school programming, extended school year, enrichment activities and mentoring and graduate support programs.”
“Gonzaga seeks to develop ‘men and women for others’ while preparing students for success in high school and post-secondary study. It will strive to graduate students who are loving, intellectually competent, open to growth, spiritually alive and committed to doing justice.”
“Gonzaga will support its students of all cultural and faith backgrounds in their growth toward becoming hopeful, confident, morally responsible leaders for love and service to their families and communities. Gonzaga Middle School will provide an educational option for parents of children from a variety of faith and cultural backgrounds, including indigenous, new-Canadian and other communities.”