St. Nicholas Catholic Elementary School (just St. Nicholas from now on) is located at 525 Laurelwood Drive, in the northwestern Waterloo neighbourhood of Laurelwood. It’s a Kindergarten to Grade 8 school, and it offers Extended Day Care. Its phone number is (519) 884-9198.
St. Nicholas is a fairly new school: it was built in 2001, making it the second-newest WCDSB elementary school on our current list (the newest on our list is Saint John Paul II Catholic Elementary School). St. Nicholas thus offers the best of both worlds, to a certain extent: it has a more modern design and newer facilities than schools from earlier decades, but it’s also more well-established in its community than a brand new school.
The student population at St. Nicholas currently stands around 420, and they are taught by a staff of nearly 50. Their team name is the St. Nicholas Spirit. As for the school’s name itself, it comes from one of the world’s most famous Saints, and one of the most prominent Russian Orthodox Saints, Saint Nicholas.
Originally named Nikolaos of Myra, Saint Nicholas lived in the Eastern Roman Empire (specifically, near modern day Demre, Turkey) from 270 to 343. Saint Nicholas was devoutly religious, a friend of the poor and saviour of sailors, and he earned a reputation as a secret gift-giver: a kind, caring old man.
This image, of course, led to the Dutch Sinterklaas, which in turn gave us ‘Santa Claus.’ Ho-ho-hold the phone, was that an etymology lesson? It sure was!
Laurelwood is consistently one of the most popular neighbourhoods in all of Waterloo, and a major part of its popularity stems from its access to multiple highly-regarded schools. Indeed, three out of the top five elementary schools in the entire Waterloo Region are located in Laurelwood (Abraham Erb and Laurelwood Public Schools, and St. Nicholas) as well as one of the top-ranked secondary schools in the region (Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary School). And that’s not even including the several nearby schools that rank highly, too!
St. Nicholas stands across from the quite respectable Old Oak Park (its numerous trees surely provide learners with ample oxygen) but the true highlight of St. Nicholas’ location lies to the north and northeast. Laurel Creek Conservation Area, and its massive Laurel Creek Reservoir, is enjoyable, educational, and enormous (the ‘three E’s of a great park’) – and it’s just a short walk away. You can read more about the Conservation Area here!
Laurelwood is a suburban neighbourhood, but it’s not without access to shopping and community opportunities (the Laurelwood Shopping Centre and the John M. Harper Branch of the Waterloo Public Library, for example). If you’re interested in learning more about Laurelwood specifically, you can read our article on it here.
St. Nicholas is part of St. Michael’s Parish. St. Michael’s Catholic Church is located between Uptown Waterloo and the campuses of both the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University. Serving over 3000 families, as well as many university students, two elementary schools, and one secondary school, St. Michael’s is a large and active Parish. This Church was built in 1965.
First, an explanation of where our rankings are coming from: the Fraser Institute. Each year, the Fraser Institute assesses elementary and secondary schools in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. For Ontario elementary schools, they make use of results from the Grade 3 and Grade 6 Testing conducted by the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO), which assess Reading, Writing, and Mathematics.
St. Nicholas’ ranking as of 2017 (the latest available results) is 8.1/10 – solidly in the top quadrant (Green) of schools. Incredibly, this places St. Nicholas in the top 10% of the over 3000 elementary schools all across Ontario. On a more local level, St. Nicholas is the second-highest rated elementary school in the entire WCDSB (including schools from Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, and the Townships).
Not only is St. Nicholas’ current score highly impressive, but the school has also excelled in past years. Their score in 2016, for example, was 8.8/10, and in the past five years the school has not once fallen from the Green quadrant.
There are many options available to St. Nicholas students, of the social, hobby, athletic, and community-varieties. In terms of athletics, St. Nicholas students can participate in intramural (and intermural) team and individual sports, either facing fellow St. Nicholas students or participating with their peers against other WCDSB elementary schools.
There are multiple clubs, interest groups, and activities outside of sports, too, including everything from choir to excursions to Camp Brébeuf (located northeast of Guelph, off of the Eramosa River).
The Catholic School Council at St. Nicholas works throughout the year to raise funds for student activities, school projects, and more. But the charitable efforts at St. Nicholas are directed far further than just the school itself. St. Nicholas is proud to have a “Social Justice Team made up of faith inspired students” at the school (WCDSB). Past projects have included support for Haiti, Syrian refugees, and multiple food drives.
St. Nicholas is part of the Resurrection Catholic Secondary School family in the WCDSB. After Grade 8, Graduating St. Nicholas students are zoned for Resurrection. Resurrection is located right on the threshold of the Kitchener/Waterloo border, off of University Avenue West (it stands on the Kitchener side). Because it’s not in the same neighbourhood as St. Nicholas, students are eligible for bussing. You can read more about Resurrection CSS here.
St. Nicholas has important dates just about every month – whether a unique assembly, a community event, or something more education-specific. You can keep an eye on St. Nicholas’ online Calendar to ensure you (or your children) never miss something (no one wants to miss a St. Nicholas BBQ day!): view it here.
If you’re looking for more detail, St. Nicholas’ online News Page is perfect. St. Nicholas regularly posts ‘Spirit Updates’ that cover just about everything going on at the school (see the whole list here). With these, you’ll be able to read more about upcoming events, and take a look at upcoming opportunities (for example, you can read about the St. Michael’s Youth Alpha program for Grade 7 and 8 students here).
Last, but certainly not least, is the St. Nicholas Twitter account (view it here). Through the pictures and updates shared here, you can get a closer look at what’s going on at the school. St. Nicholas is, as noted, one of the top-rated elementary schools in the Waterloo Region, and surely incredible classroom activities like this one are yet another part of the reason why.
St. Nicholas is a wonderful school, in a wonderful neighbourhood. With dedicated educators, impressive extracurricular involvement, close ties with St. Michael’s Parish, and even bearing the name of one of the world’s most beloved (and jolliest) Saints, there’s much to admire about St. Nicholas Catholic Elementary School. Happy learning to all, and to all a good night!
Written by Will Kummer