New Rockwood Catholic school set to welcome first students

The floors are waxed, the walls are painted, the grass is finally growing and Sacred Heart Catholic School in Rockwood is ready for students.

The brand new school is opening on Sept. 6 – the first day of the 2016-17 school year – and the school’s mission is “heart for living, heart for learning,” explained principal Jeanette Ondercin.

“So ‘heart for living’ being developing that safe environment and playing off the ‘Sacred Heart’ word but skills for living and then a heart also for all the learning that we’re doing,” she said.

Sacred Heart is located in the north end of Rockwood on Wellington Road 27, across from the OPP station and beside Rockmosa Park and the library. As of Aug. 17 the school had about 110 students enrolled, many of whom previously attended St. Patrick Catholic School in Guelph. The school’s total capacity is about 250 students.

“We do have some Grade 8s attending here and the … present Grade 8s starting in September would have had the opportunity to stay at St. Patrick for their graduating year,” Ondercin said. “Younger students, our new JKs as well up to Grade 7, this was their school.”

And some Grade 8 students chose to make the switch.

 “It’s nice,” Ondercin said. “We’ve got a nice group coming … that are looking forward to being the first school class to graduate.”

Because Sacred Heart will be within the St. James Catholic High School boundaries, the Grade 8s who do move will be reunited with their St. Patrick schoolmates in Grade 9, Ondercin explained.

However, going to school in the local community will benefit students.

“You’re in your local school now, your local community, you build those local relationships with … your outside life within your community and now you have your schooling within here too,” Ondercin said. “The newness of a new school here too is I guess exciting so to be part of that making history in some ways is that you’re building that community together.”

Guelph-Eramosa Mayor Chris White said the school is exciting for the entire Rockwood community but especially for the Catholic community.  

“We did a study a few years ago and we figured probably about 150 kids were being bused into Guelph to go to school,” he said. “Then you had another 100 Catholics going to the public school, so what it does is it gives them their own school which is a positive thing.”

White said it’s necessary to provide services like a school for Sacred Heart parish to grow with new families.

“All around it’s great because … now we’ve got three schools directly in town and you know we’re covering both school boards,” he said. “So it’s fantastic and it allows those people who are Catholic to remain in the community and go to school here.”

The challenge now is to provide services to the thousand-plus children who live in Rockwood.

“We need to have some facilities,” White said. “It’s one of the reasons we’re doing the skatepark and expanding the soccer and trying to put the trails and stuff in.

“The challenge with that many schools in town is making sure that the children have stuff to do.”

The school building itself may be an adjustment for some students, Ondercin said. None of the classrooms are going to have desks, just tables that can be rearranged easily to allow flexibility in seating assignments.

“We are really trying to develop that learning environment that’s collaborative and that we’re working with each other and in (a) cooperative, collaborative kind of way,” she said. “So we’re starting out with tables in our rooms.”

She said the format encourages student voices within the classroom.

“It’s not about (the) teacher imparting knowledge to students – ‘I have it all and I’m going to give it to you,’” Ondercin said. “It’s about building that knowledge together and it’s about taking our passions and student voice within that and inquiry based learning.”

The school is also providing each class from Grade 1 to 4 with a set of iPads and each class from Grade 5 to 8 with a set of Chromebooks.

The idea is to teach them how to use technology as a tool, not just a toy and to use it to create, not just for word processing, Ondercin said.

Each classroom will also have an interactive projector.

“The classroom has a whiteboard … so … when the projector is installed it shines onto the whiteboard and then it makes the whiteboard interactive,” she said. “Then it hooks up to a computer so you can use it to project things from your computer.”

Students can interact with the images presented or they use the screen to create and design ideas, which can then be saved to the computer.

The junior and senior kindergarten class has a three-in-one projector that can be projected on a variety of surfaces, including the floor, so the younger students can reach the screen and experience the interactive features.

Though the school’s population is too large to fit into the Sacred Heart church in Rockwood and most masses will be celebrated at the school, Ondercin said she’s hoping to make use of the church in smaller groups.     

“We’re looking forward to actually seeing the parish grow as our school community grows too because we’re working together so … the success of the community, church and parish is also successful for our school,” she said.

“Then building into the community we’re really looking forward to developing those relationships with community groups and being a part of Rockwood that way.”

The school already has a connection with the parish. A statue of the Sacred Heart is located on the right-hand side of the front entrance to the school.

“The Sacred Heart statue was originally at the Sacred Heart parish church and … it has been in storage … I think [Father Mark Morley] said it’s probably over 100 years old and … he’s taken it out of storage, he’s had it all repainted and now its home is here,” Ondercin said.

“It’s a wonderful connect between parish and school and having that bit of history to begin our community.”

Sacred Heart Catholic School will be holding its official opening and blessing on Sept. 21 at 7pm.  

For information on registration call (519) 856-1157 or check

Students are encouraged on the first day of school to wear the T-shirts they received at the June sneak peek of the school.