The very next Sunday, as Canon Hulse shook hands with the parting congregation members, he was startled to hear Jim Chalmers say, “Robert let’s do it. Let’s start a school!” And from that moment, St. John’s School (Elora) stopped being a dream and became a compelling mission for Canon Hulse, Mr. Chalmers, and many others.
The next few months were filled with meetings to garner support. In addition, a basic curriculum was created. The School would promote high standards in academics, the arts (especially music), hearty sports, practical skills, and social graces. The goal was to have 60 male students, 15 in each grade from Grade 5 to Grade 8. Those were ambitious goals for a new school.
They formed a steering committee along with subcommittees for things such as uniforms, public relations, and the budget. They designed a coat of arms and selected the motto, “To stir into flame the gift of God.” In fact, many of those initial supporters formed the first Board of Governors. Together they drafted the private members’ bill for the Ontario Legislature that was needed to establish the School. On June 25, 1972, the supporters had much cause for celebration when they heard the news that the Ontario Legislature had passed the bill that created the School. St. John’s School (Elora) now existed on paper.
As interest for the School grew, the founders needed to find a suitable location. They were fortunate that a house came up for sale quite near St. John’s Church. In the early summer of 1972, they purchased the ‘White House’ on Price Street and it officially became St. John’s School (Elora). When they took possession of the house in July 1972, there was a great deal of work to be done before it would be ready for 60 boys. With limited construction knowledge, little money, and only 8 weeks to complete the project, they set about converting a house into a school.
In the meantime, Mr. Chalmers started the search for teachers who would support his vision. He first hired teacher Mr. Walter Langford and second Mr. Malcolm Rombach. The newly hired teachers rolled up their sleeves and pitched in wherever help was needed. Although the goal was to start school on September 7, 1972, they missed their goal by a few days and opened instead on September 11, 1972. The dream to create a school for boys in Elora had become reality and St. John’s (Elora) officially opened its doors to its first students.
The opening day of the School was very memorable for everyone involved, but especially for the School’s Founding Headmaster, Mr. Chalmers. As he wrote in his memoir, “If there is any moment in the school’s history that will have a lasting memory, it will be opening day. That morning, the faculty met at 8:15 a.m. to review the opening day’s procedures….At 8:45 a.m., with the sun shining brightly, we all walked across the village green to St. John’s Church. We were confronted with a church full of parents and their sons who had faith in our dream. At the resounding strains of a favourite hymn, Praise My Soul the King of Heaven, filled that magnificent sanctuary, I could not sing as I welled up with emotion. There at the front of the sanctuary were Glenn Carroll, Chair of the Board of Governors, and Robert Hulse and me to participate in a brief service to welcome a unique and remarkable congregation.”