Fred Gore began teaching in 1967 with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board. As a young teacher, Fred was drawn to teaching students that the Board had deemed “unteachable”. These students were labelled juvenile delinquents and sent to sector schools to be “taught”. In his teaching, Fred realized that these students were, in fact, Learning Disabled and were struggling academically, not because they were lazy or dumb, but because they had learning challenges. Fred was soon labelled the “Student Whisperer” and the Catholic School Board sent him from school to school to set up environments for these children. But by 1979, Fred had realized that the Board had a very different vision of how to aid and assist children with Learning Disabilities and, and in 1980 he left the school board, cashed in his pension, and opened St. Jude’s School in September of 1980 with his wife, Bonnie.
By the end of September 1980, St Jude’s had one full time student. By Christmas, 6. In those first years, Mr. Gore was the principal, Director, teacher, janitor, bus driver, and lunch lady! Fred and Bonnie, while raising their own young family, knew that the Waterloo Region needed St. Jude’s School and put everything on the line to begin this dream.
Located on Philip Street in Waterloo, St. Jude’s School had grown for a decade and was well known in the Waterloo Region for its exceptional work with bright/gifted students who experience learning disabilities. During the 80’s the word spread that St. Jude’s was a school where great teaching, small class sizes, and motivated students were the norm.
As the decade changed into the 90’s, more and more parents were approaching St. Jude’s School to register their children. Fred Gore, St. Jude’s director and founder, would ask the same question at each meeting – “What is your child’s learning disability?” More and more the parents would respond that their child had no learning difficulties – just the opposite – their child was not being challenged in the public system and they wanted to enroll in St. Jude’s School because they had heard that it was a school that expected each child to perform to their personal best level of achievement. Mr. Gore, for a number of years, sent these parents away (his reasoning was that St. Jude’s School was for those students who needed to be there not a school for those who would benefit from attending).
Mr. Gore’s accountant was not impressed. Continually his accountant would exclaim “You are running a business! These people want to pay a tuition to you! Change your business model and adapt to suit your market! (It was good advice)
So, after a few years of sending parents to other private schools, St. Jude’s School began accepting non-learning disabled students. By 1993 St. Jude’s population grew from 30 to 100. By 1995, in addition to the 100 attending students, there was a wait list of 75 students.
But alas, St. Jude’s School grew from wonderful class sizes of 6 to huge class sizes of 12. True, the students in St. Jude’s School were receiving a better education than in the publicly funded system but sadly approximately 1/3 of the students (those who needed St. Jude’s) were not receiving as good as they were getting when the classes were at 6.
As a result, Mr. Gore realized that he had two schools in one and began the search for a second location. After a number of years looking at closed public schools that were in rough shape, he found a nice piece of land in the Huron Business Park. On the property was and still is to this day, the largest, healthiest Elm tree in Ontario. Because the property is surrounded by protected environmental lands nothing can ever be built beside or behind. The property is easy to get to, with city transit stopping in front, and it is across the street from one of the largest Nature Parks in all of Waterloo Region.
The property was purchased. A school was designed and built, and 75 of the 100 students in the Phillip St. location and 25 students from the wait list began classes in September of 2000 at the new location at 888 Trillium Drive, Kitchener. Scholars’ Hall was born! The remaining 25 – 30 students moved from the Phillip Street location to Weber and University in Waterloo and St. Jude’s School returned to its original focus of helping bright, learning disabled students turn their potential into achievement.
Enrollment grew at Scholars’ Hall for the next six years until the recession of 2008. The recession was not kind to Scholars’ and many adjustments had to be made. In hindsight, those adjustments have made Scholars’ Hall into a much better school and business. Scholars’ Hall weathered this economic storm and has continued to be very successful at providing the best continuous education, from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12, than any other private or publicly funded school.
As the recession waned, Scholars’ Hall invited St. Jude’s School to move into the building in 2009. Enrollment at Scholars’ Hall steadily recovered in the years following the recession. As the start of the 2013 school year, Scholars’ Hall’s enrollment reached and then exceeding pre-recession numbers. St. Jude’s School enrollment, on the other hand, being the only full-time day school for students with learning disabilities within 100 kilometers, stayed fully registered throughout the recession.
Now, in 2020, Scholars’ Hall and St. Jude’s School is known for our strong reputation of compassionate teaching, our students’ work ethic, our focus on preparing students for post-secondary education, and our academic strategies and supports to help students with any and all learning needs. As of September 2018, all class in both Scholars’ Hall and St. Jude’s School are either fully registered or have only one or two places available.
Since May 2021, Scholars’ Hall and St. Jude’s School have been fully registered for the next school year well before the end of the current school year. Wait Lists, for all grades, are now an unfortunate reality at SJSH. In December 2021, SJSH applied to the City of Kitchener to build a 10-classroom addition. With no permit forthcoming from the City of Kitchener, SJSH’s addition plans had to be postponed for September 2022 and possibly once again for September 2023.