In 1902, Bishop Dunne, the Bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes, gave permission for the Sisters of Mercy to establish a convent and day school in Mount Barker. The Sisters came from Broken Hill and the NSW inland, establishing the Sisters of Mercy Convent of Mount Barker; the Young Ladies High School, the convent Boarding School for Girls, and the primary school, all under the name St Scholastica.
By 1945, the school had 46 day students and 64 boarders with a staff of 11 Sisters. The school continued to grow until, in 1958, with a population of 130 students, plans were drawn up for a new building consisting of classrooms, teachers’ room, toilet block and veranda. The following year the school moved down the hill into the new building, which the Irish Sisters in their history refer to as the move down in to the dell. The building still exists on site and has been renamed “The Dell” in the Sisters’ honour.
By 1963, Fr Kelly, the Parish Priest of Mount Barker, felt there was a need for a secondary school in the area. However, plans were shelved as this was not seen to be viable both financially and practically.
In 1977, the Sisters of Mercy withdrew from teaching at Mount Barker and, in 1978, the school became known as Mount Barker Parish School, staffed entirely by lay teachers. The primary school continued to grow, and the buildings with it and by 1984 students were being bussed from Woodside and Balhannah.
In 1986 the Parish school changed its name to St Francis de Sales Parish School.
There had been several submissions to South Australian Commission for Catholic Schools for the development of a secondary school, but it was not until 1998 that approval was given to the development. In December that year, the first transportable buildings arrived. In 1999, St Francis de Sales Parish School became an R-12 Catholic co-educational College, now known as St Francis de Sales College. Our first Year 12 students graduated at the end of 2003.
The College has continued to provide a Catholic education to families in the Adelaide Hills. Enrolments reflect significant change in population in the Mount Barker area and there are now about 890 students in Reception to Year 12. As a diocesan school, governance of the College ultimately rests with the Archdiocese of Adelaide, supported by an advisory College Board, appointed through elected nominations from the parent body and members from the Parish.