The 2020-2021 school year marks Sacred Heart’s 155th anniversary of educating the children of the beautiful Rogue Valley. In 1865, Fr. Francois Blanchet, pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Jacksonville and nephew of Oregon’s first Archbishop, promoted the idea of starting a Catholic school for the children of the pioneering families. Fr. Blanchet sent word to the Sisters of Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in Portland, inviting them to come and teach. The Sisters responded, and in September of 1865, St. Mary’s Academy was born in Jacksonville, OR.
Many of the pioneering families sent their children to St. Mary’s Academy to be refined by the Sisters of Holy Names in music and the arts. This tradition is still evident in Sacred Heart Catholic School. The names of the initial families who sent their children to St. Mary’s are etched upon our valley’s streets, parks, lakes, neighborhoods, and towns. Some familiar names among the early students include Applegate, Buckley, Griffin, Ruch, McAndrews, Nunan, and Britt.
The sisters moved the school to its present location on 12th and Holly Streets in Medford in 1908. The school was both a boarding and day school and served the needs of the families in Medford, Jacksonville, and neighboring towns. In 1949, Sacred Heart Parish purchased the school and began building the present facility on 11th and Ivy, which opened in 1951 as St. Mary’s School for students in the first through twelfth grades. The new building was designed in an “L” shape to fit on the site and accommodate the original building which was located on our current playground.
During the 1950’s, enrollment at St. Mary’s grew exponentially, and in 1960 Sacred Heart Parish decided to split the high school and the elementary school. In 1961, St. Mary’s High School was built at its present location on Black Oak Dr., and the elementary school at the Ivy Street location was renamed Sacred Heart Catholic School. Up until the early 1980’s, the Sisters of Holy Names continued to have a strong presence at Sacred Heart. In 1984, Sacred Heart hired their first lay principal, and only one sister remained.
On March 7, 1987, a fire destroyed Sacred Heart Catholic School. The community quickly mobilized and rebuilt the school. In September of 1987, the school reopened as a kindergarten through sixth grade school with a more modern facility ready to serve the needs of the students and families of the Rogue Valley. A collective decision among the governing bodies of Sacred Heart School and St. Mary’s High School placed the seventh and eighth grades at St. Mary’s in the spring of 1987. In the spring of 2000, the Pastor, Principal, and School Advisory Council proposed the addition of a seventh and eighth grade to Sacred Heart Catholic School. The Archdiocese approved the proposal, and in 2002 Sacred Heart graduated its first eighth-grade class since 1986.