A Basic History of the Great Ghost

 On February 17, 1919 the Coteau St-Pierre School Commission opened the first high school in NDG at the head of West Hill Avenue.  Named West Hill High School, it consisted of 15 classrooms and a number of specialized areas. On July 1st, 1921 the school, along with its feeder school of Kensington Elementary, was annexed by by the Protestant Board of School Commissioners (PBSC). In  September of that year the school had 195 pupils in grades 6 through 11 served by a staff of 11 teachers. By 1925 the population had grown to 350 students and 12 classrooms were added in the form of a western wing. Five years later an eastern extension was built to accommodate 942 pupils. It still wasn't enough. Between 1914 and 1930 the population of NDG had grown from 5,000 to 50,000 residents. For a Pre-History covering NDG origins click here

In the early 1930s the need for a second NDG high school was recognized. However first  Depression and then World War II served as major roadblocks in building a second high school to reduce the population of  the overcrowded West Hill High. The school had outgrown its earlier additions additions and by 1944 had peaked at a population of 1452 students and 50 teachers.  By that time a new school design was approved by the PBSC and it was to be known as "Somerled High School", located on the corner of Somerled and Draper avenues. A further delay occurred when the PBSC disappeared into the newly amalgamated Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal in 1946. A subsequent evaluation of school properties and requirements confirmed that a further extension of West Hill High was not the best solution, and that work should begin on the new school, now to be called "Monklands High School". Work on this new school finally began on June 2, 1950.

By 1952 with the long-awaited second NDG high school nearing completion a new assignment was planned  for The Ghost. Unexpectedly the new role also involved a name change. In September the new school, originally to be called  Monklands High School, opened instead as West Hill High. The Ghost had lost its original name and was hurriedly renamed Westward School, a junior high, which accommodated grade  7 & 8 students only. By 1954, however, the impact of the "baby boom"  was realized and the PSBGM was forced to reinstate The Ghost as a full high school and began adding senior years to its curriculum one year at a time. In 1955 a new name was assigned, Monklands High School, the name originally intended for the the new high school built on Somerled Ave. Along with its restored status, the school received a whole new annex on Benny Avenue and a new gymnasium for girls in 1958. See the Name Game for details

Enrollment at Monklands  peaked in 1967  at a level much lower than the mid-1940s numbers and began a steady decline into the mid-1970s as the "baby boom" tapered off.. By the late 1970s large scale changes in the population, accelerated by government language of education led to final, dramatic enrollment declines  which led to the closing of the Great Ghost  in  June 1979.See the rise and fall of enrollment numbers See the Gazette article on the closing of the school

Unlike other older schools, the Great Ghost was not demolished but instead  lay unused for four years while the PSBGM and the city argued over its fate. In 1984 work began to transform the building into a seniors residence. In addition to the existing building, the soccer field to the Terrebonne side became site of two new buildings added as part of a residence complex.

A Footnote Dedicated to Margaret Varey who taught geography ay MHS from the 1950s to the 1970s: The school is located at N 45deg 24.356' W73deg 55.975' at  an elevation of 51 meters.