140 Years 140 Facts
2021 marks the 140th anniversary of the beginning of public education in the community of Edmonton.
To commemorate this anniversary, Historic McKay Avenue School, home of Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum, is launching a project called “140 Years 140 Facts”. Over the course of the year, we will be posting 140 facts about what is known today as Edmonton Public Schools. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to receive the latest facts!
Superintendent Ross Sheppard
From 1940 - 1955, Ross Sheppard served as Edmonton Public Schools fourth Superintendent. During the Sheppard years the number of permanent schools increased from 30 to 63, student enrolment increased by almost 1,000 students per year, and permanent staff doubled. Teacher’s salaries almost doubled from an average annual salary of $2088 in 1940 to $3896 in 1955. Per pupil costs of education increased from $89.19 to $238.25 during the same period.
Ross Sheppard is remembered as a man who tried to maintain close contact with the staff, even to the point of handing out cheques to all the teachers on the last day of June. He graciously thanked each teacher for his or her efforts during the year and took pride in calling each teacher by name, seldom making a mistake in doing so.
Ross Sheppard High School, built in 1957, was named in his honour - a fitting tribute for a man who was a teacher, principal and superintendent for 42 years.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P84.5.27
Mr. Sheppard’s retirement.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P94.65.23
Tomorrow we celebrate Canada Day. Perhaps this is a good day to reflect on the contributions of the people: from the original inhabitants, the Indigenous, all the way to the latest refugees and immigrants, who have helped to create the fabric of this country and what we have to be proud of. It is also a good day to recognize the things that we as Canadians can and should do to make it an even better nation.
The plaque featured in the first picture was presented to most schools in Canada in 1927 to mark 60 years of confederation.
Source Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum 84.59.2
The second and third pictures show a large crowd of spectators watching Edmonton Public Schools students taking part in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Victoria Park.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P91.4.2
The edge of the river valley in the third picture is certainly much different than today!
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P91.4.4
Depression Era Giveaway
Tomorrow is National Camera Day. From May 1 to May 30, 1930, the Eastman Kodak Co. gave away 550,000 cameras to children in the U.S.A. and Canada whose twelfth birthday fell in 1930. The child, accompanied by a parent or guardian, simply went to an authorized Kodak dealer to receive the free camera, a Kodak No. 1A (pictured), plus a free roll of film.
Two stated purposes of this mass giveaway were:
1) In appreciation of the parents and grandparents of these children who had helped amateur photography and Kodak to grow
2) To further promote the popularity of amateur photography
Several Division students were able to receive cameras as part of this campaign.
Photo Credit: B. Christy
Superintendent George McKee
In 1924, George McKee was appointed as the third Superintendent of Edmonton Public Schools. He remained in this capacity for 17 years until his retirement in 1940. Periods of stability, depression and financial cutbacks were experienced during his tenure.
In his first year as Superintendent, McKee participated in opening ceremonies for three new schools: Garneau, Riverdale and Frank Scott (later renamed Eastwood). He is well remembered for his patience and praiseworthy achievements. Mr McKee was well liked by the teachers and remarkably few teachers resigned or left the Division during his time as Superintendent.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P84.4.23
Commercial High Schools
In celebration of National Typewriter Day we bring you the McDougall High School Commercial Class of 1916 posing in front of their typewriters. Their teacher, J. Percy Page, is seated in the front row. Students who intended to pursue a business career could receive instruction and practice in office training at McDougall Commercial High School.
Photo Credit: Glenbow Archives NC-6-2341
This is a 1926 Underwood Typewriter, similar to the one seen in the class photo.
Photo Credit: B. Christy
This is the oldest typewriter in our museum: The Oliver No. 5 from circa 1908.
First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI) Education Programming
Today is National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada. This day gives us a chance to recognize the many achievements of Canada’s Indigenous peoples and celebrate the distinct cultures and unique traditions of these FNMI communities.
At two Edmonton Public Schools sites, there is a focus on teaching knowledge and honouring of Cree language, values, ancestral knowledge and traditions. At Prince Charles School, children from Kindergarten to Grade 6 are enrolled in the Awasis program (Awasis is Cree for child). This program began in 1973 through the efforts of parents and Edmonton Native rights activist Jenny Shirt Margetts. Awasis became part of Edmonton Public Schools in 1974. Pictured is Mr. T. Alcoze with a class sitting in a circle circa 1990.
In 2000, amiskwaciy Academy opened for students from Grade 7 -12. Most students come from Edmonton and surrounding areas but also First Nations and Metis settlements throughout Western Canada and the Northwest Territories. Although most students are First Nations, Metis or Inuit, students of all cultures are welcome. amiskwaciy is what the Cree people called the area that is now Edmonton. In English it means “Beaver Hills House”. The amiskwaciy Academy’s logo reflects the traditional beliefs of the medicine wheel and is featured in the second photo.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P95.78.371
Source Credit: amiskwaciy Logo
End-of-the-Year Activities: Picnics
The end of the school year always brings with it special activities for the students. This is not something new. Pictured is a portion of a photo taken on June 24, 1922. It shows students and staff from Garneau School celebrating the end of the school year in Victoria Park with their annual picnic.
Photo Credit: Photo By McDermid Studio NOC201 (Annual Garneau School Picnic Victoria Park June 24th 1922)
Edmonton Technical School Closure
Edmonton Technical School saw a drastic decline in enrolment during the first years of the Second World War. In 1943, the Department of National Defence requested the use of the entire school for the Emergency War Training Program. After the war, the school was used for refresher courses for ex-servicemen preparing for university enrollment. In 1947 it was returned to Edmonton Public Schools and used mostly as a warehouse. A few shop classes continued for a short time but these were closed when the new Victoria Composite High School was opened in 1949, absorbing Tech as well as McDougall Commercial students.
Pictured are photos of the demolition of the building in June and July of 1966.
Photo Credits: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P94.42.40-45
4 Jul 1966
7 Jul 1966
13 Jul 1966
14 Jul 1966
21 Jul 1966
Edmonton Technical School Courses: Part Two
Edmonton Technical School offered a wide range of trades courses for boys and young men. There were courses in machine work and tool making, auto mechanics, blacksmithing, printing, mechanical and architectural drafting and sheet metal. Night school courses included many of the day courses as well as coal mining and steam engineering. Pictured are a buttermaking demonstration and the forge and blacksmith shop.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.5.1
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.5.2
Superintendent W. G. Carpenter
William G. Carpenter was our second superintendent. He served in this role from 1914 - 1923. At the time of his appointment, Mr. Carpenter was principal of Victoria High School. One of his first tasks as superintendent was to introduce a night school program for new Canadians. Throughout the First World War, Mr. Carpenter kept in close personal contact with most of the staff members who were serving in the military overseas.
Unlike his predecessor, James McCaig who used a horse-drawn rig for transport, Superintendent Carpenter used his automobile, which he purchased in 1919, when making school visits. In 1921, he applied to the Board to cover the cost of new tires, explaining that he had already spent $143.10 on tire repairs and that he used the car almost entirely for work. His request was denied however his travel allowance was increased to $35/month.
Carpenter left his position as Superintendent of Edmonton Public Schools to become principal of the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art in Calgary. He later became Alberta’s Provincial Director of Technical Education.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.14.18
Edmonton Technical School Courses: Part One
Edmonton Technical School offered many courses for girls and women. Pictured are students taking part in sewing and cooking classes as well as a Domestic Science demonstration at the Edmonton Exhibition.
Other evening courses for women included dressmaking, needlework, millinery, nursing science, invalid cooking and dietetics.
Photo Credit:Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.5.21
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.5.23
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.5.24
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.28.6
The first full week of June is National Garden Week. During World War One, the teaching of agriculture and nurturing of school gardens were both educational and patriotic thrusts. Pictured are students in the school garden at Donald Ross School in 1915.
Source Credit: Kostek, M. A., A Century and Ten: The History of Edmonton Public Schools (Edmonton, AB: ASAP Finecolor Printing, 1992), 193.
A newly authorised text book written by former superintendent James McCaig, and special summer school programs for teachers wishing to teach the new course, helped promote interest in the subject. Before the end of the war, most schools had gardens of their own.
Source Credit: McCaig, James, Elementary Agriculture for Alberta Schools (Toronto, ON: W. J. Gage & Co., Limited, 1915)
Superintendent James McCaig
In its 140 years, Edmonton Public Schools has had 13 superintendents. The first superintendent was James McCaig who served from July 20, 1906 to October 31, 1913. Ten permanent schools were built during the seven years that he served and five more were nearing completion at the time of his resignation. Superintendent McCaig was a progressive thinker in terms of educational philosophy. He stated that “The ultimate end of school work is character building”. He proposed expanded household science, music, and physical education classes in the belief that a richer curriculum would help keep pupils in school.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P84.2.3
Edmonton Technical School Beginnings
Edmonton Technical School was created for three purposes: to train students who were not likely to finish secondary school and would go to work in various trades; to prepare boys for University courses in a variety of technical fields and girls for University courses in household economics; and to provide evening classes for those who worked during the day.
Night school courses were extremely popular with a wide range of courses being offered. Some academic high school subjects were offered in the evening as well. English for new Canadians was also taught. Tuition fees ranged from $2 to $4 per course depending on the number of times the subject was offered during the 10 week term. Pictured are Tech students modelling dresses designed in night classes.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.5.22
Asian Heritage Month - Bing Mah
Today marks the end of Asian Heritage Month. Throughout the history of Edmonton Public Schools, many well known and lesser known individuals from various cultures have been educated in our schools and gone on to play a valuable role in our city, province and country. One such person is Bing K. Mah who came from China in 1922 at the age of 10. He was a student at Alex Taylor School and was one of the first fully bilingual individuals of Chinese descent in Edmonton.
Throughout his life, Bing Mah worked as a tireless volunteer - as an interpreter for Immigration Canada and Canadian Pacific Airlines, assisting immigrants with visas and passports, organizing fund-raising for the Canadian War Bond program - the list goes on. He was the first Chinese businessman to become a Rotarian in Edmonton where he continued to volunteer his time for 50 years. On May 3, 2004 Bing Mah was included in the list of 100 Edmontonians of the Century.
We appreciate the support of Mr. Mah’s family and the Chinese Benevolent Association for their permission to use his photo on our website.
Photo Credit: Mah Family and the Chinese Benevolent Association
How Building Model Airplanes Supported the Second World War Effort
As part of Edmonton Technical School’s contribution to the Second World War effort, model airplanes were built for the airforce and used for aircraft recognition. A letter from #4 Training Command Headquarters (part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan) in Calgary congratulated the students on their models and stated that they were of the very best manufacture. Pictured are students from an Edmonton Technical School woodworking class circa 1935.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.28.9
Aviation Theme in Edmonton Technical School Night Classes
The Edmonton Technical School was established at a regular meeting of the Board on December 19, 1912. The old street railway car barns on Syndicate Avenue (95 Street) and 108A Avenue were chosen to be remodelled to serve as Tech’s first home. On opening day, October 15, 1913, 12 pupils were registered for instruction; however, by the end of 1914 the enrollment was 322.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.5.29
By 1922, a larger building was needed to accommodate the school’s program and on January 3, 1923 classes commenced in the Old Market Building north of 107A Avenue on 101 Street.
During World War II, the school became involved in the war effort. Night classes in aircraft repair, welding, aircraft woodwork, aircraft metal repair work, aircraft machine shop, aero-engines, aircraft electricity and ground-school maintenance were introduced. May 24 was Aviation Maintenance Technician Day and we would like to recognize the contributions of Edmonton’s early Aircraft Technicians to the war effort.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.5.31
Victoria Day weekend is here! The observance of the birthday of Queen Victoria dates back to as early as 1845 in Canada, but it was in 1901 that May 24th (Victoria’s actual birthday), or “Victoria Day,” became a national holiday. In 1921, it was re-named “Empire Day.” For many years, on the afternoon preceding May 24th, cadet drills and patriotic exercises in story and song were the order of the day in Edmonton Public Schools. Mass rallies of school children would be organized in school yards or parks to perform Empire Day programs. The aim of these activities was to foster a training and attitude that would produce patriotic citizens of the British Empire. Legislation passed in 1952 established the first Monday preceding May 24th as the Victoria Day celebration.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.2.27
War Saving Stamps
During the Second World War, students in Edmonton Public Schools, and across Canada, participated in many ways to support the war effort. Pass books such as this one recorded a student’s contribution of money for fighting the war. A student could purchase stamps, each worth 25c, and paste them into a pass book. Once the pass book was filled with 16 stamps the student could trade it in for a War Savings Certificate worth $4.00. After five years the certificate could be redeemed at a post-office or bank for $5.00. Loan schemes such as this were used to finance the war.
The sale of War Saving Stamps in schools raised $141,926.40, which is equivalent in purchasing power to over $2,100,000.00 today.
Source Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum 96.29.1; 97.91.1
Westmount School: Then & Now
Westmount School is the youngest of our centenarians. Construction began in 1913 but ceased only two months later due to financial difficulties of the Board and a shortage of building supplies. Construction continued intermittently for seven years. The school opened at Easter of 1915 but, like Highlands School, the second floor wasn’t completed until 1920. It became the Division’s first junior high school in 1918. A high school section was opened in 1927 that ran until 1940. In 1936 it became an elementary, junior and senior high school. It reverted to a junior high in 1950.
Photo Credit: Glenbow Archives NA-1328-66619
Today, Westmount School continues to support students through regular programming, an Opportunity program to support students living with mild intellectual disabilities and significant academic delays, as well as a sheltered English as a Second Language program to support students learning academic English.
Photo Credit: B. Christy
H. A. Gray School: Then & Now
H. Allen Gray (H. A. Gray) School officially opened in the fall of 1914, although classes had started there in May of that year. Like so many of the schools built at that time, the school was on the edge of the city. Most of the sidewalks in the area were wooden boardwalks and the streets were ungraded trails with the exception of 97 Street which was graded and gravelled.
Photo Credits: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.6.4
The school closed in 1984 and became the Westwood Campus of NAIT. Since 2004, this beautiful building has served the community as the home of Vanguard College which offers various certificate, diploma and degree programs in Christian education.
Photo Credit: B. Christy
The School Nurse
Today is National School Nurse Day! The School Nurse was a highly sought after position in Edmonton Public Schools, with applications coming from as far as Ontario. The earliest mentions of the School Nurse position in our archive occurred in 1912.
By 1913, when the student population of Edmonton Public Schools had grown to approximately 8000 students, the Medical Inspector was accompanied by two full time School Nurses. The School Nurse salary ranged from $800.00 to $1200.00 per year. At this time, approximately 15 to 20 percent of the student population suffered from “various ailments,” and 30 to 35 percent suffered from “dental defects.”
In 1952, the health services of Edmonton school boards were incorporated into the city health department.
Source Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum 84.3
King Edward School: Then and Now
King Edward School opened in 1914. For the first time, the large assembly hall was built on the first floor unlike other schools of the time that had it on the top floor. This allowed for easier use of the hall by the local community. The building had an automatic heat regulator, separate playrooms for boys and girls and “shower baths”. This last feature caused the Edmonton Bulletin to report “This will be a novelty to many of the children who never before saw hot water come down like rain”. In 1920 King Edward School became the city’s fourth experimental junior high school. The experiment was abandoned in 1925. In 1928, six rooms of King Edward School were rented to the government for teacher training, which operated as King Edward Normal School until 1930. Strathcona Commercial School was also located in the building during the 1920s. King Edward School closed in 1984.
Photo Credits: Glenbow Archives NC-6-767
In 1992, it reopened as the Academy at King Edward, which offers specialized programming for students with learning disabilities in Grades 2 to 12. The students are taught, in small classes, to understand their learning strengths and challenges and to develop strategies that allow them to become lifelong learners.
Photo Credit: B. Christy
WWII Honour Roll
Tomorrow, May 8, marks the 76th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. In 1944, Superintendent of Schools Ross Sheppard reported that 15% of the teaching staff (43 men and 16 women) of Edmonton Public Schools were on a leave of absence serving with the Canadian forces overseas or doing war work in Canada. In 1945, he reported that there was no loss of life due to wartime activities of any staff member. Sadly, of the 1,400 high school students who enlisted, 115 did not return. The sacrifice of these young men and women is still honoured today.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P90.24.52
Highlands School: Then & Now
Construction of Highlands School was approved in 1913 but only the first floor had been completed by 1915. It was not until 1920 that most of the second floor was finished and the building was connected to the city’s sewer and electrical service. From 1921 to 1930, Highlands Normal School operated out of the second floor. It was the first teacher training institute in Alberta, serving 110 student teachers in its first year. Six classrooms were added in 1954. For the majority of the last half of the 1900s, Highlands School was a junior high school.
Photo Credit: Glenbow Archives NC-6-9009
In 2019, a major construction and expansion project began with the demolition of the 1954 addition. A new wing is being constructed and a modernization of the original, historically significant building will take place. In September of 2021, Highlands Junior High will become a Kindergarten to Grade 9 school.
Photo Credit: B. Christy
North Edmonton School: Then & Now
North Edmonton School was constructed in 1910 and opened in 1911. It became a part of Edmonton Public Schools in 1913 when the Village of North Edmonton amalgamated with the City of Edmonton. Additions were added in 1923 and 1955 to accommodate growing enrollment. North Edmonton School was closed in 2005 due to low enrollment.
Photo Credit: Glenbow Archives NC-6-771
Today the building continues to serve the community as Balwin Villa, an Enhanced Designated Living site designed specifically for clients with brain injury, mental illness or early onset dementia.
Photo Credit: B Christy
Early Recess Games
Tomorrow, May 1, is National Play Outside Day. Two very popular games played by Edmonton Public Schools students in the past were Anti-Anti-I-Over and Fox & Geese.
Anti-Anti-I-Over, sometimes called Ante Over, dates back to at least the late 1800s. Usually played in the summer it involved two teams, one on either side of the schoolhouse. One team would call out “Anti-Anti-I-Over” and throw a ball over the schoolhouse roof. The other team would attempt to catch the ball. If successful, the whole team would run around the schoolhouse and the person with the ball would attempt to tag members of the other team who would try to run to safety to the other side. If the ball was not caught, the second team would have their turn throwing the ball over the roof.
Source Credit: Archives and Museum Field Trip Postcards
Fox and Geese was a winter game of tag. A large spoked wheel was tramped out in the snow. One person was the fox and the others were geese. All players had to stay on the tramped paths while the fox attempted to tag a goose. If tagged, that person then became the fox. The only safe zone was in the middle where the paths crossed. This was often referred to as the barnyard.
Photo Credit: B. Christy
John A. McDougall School: Then & Now
Built in 1913, John A. McDougall School has had a complex history having housed elementary students as well as McDougall Commercial High School. When Kate Chegwin became the first principal of John A. McDougall School she also became the first female principal to head a large permanent school. Shortly after it opened, the commercial classes from Victoria High School moved into the second floor of John A. McDougall and became known as McDougall Commercial High School - home of the famous Commercial Grads basketball team. In 1929 fire destroyed most of the building but it was quickly restored. In 1949 McDougall Commercial High School closed and the classes were transferred to Victoria Composite High School.
Photo Credit: Glenbow Archives NC-6-765
Today, the school is a multicultural hub with the majority of the Pre-Kindergarten to grade six students being English Language Learners. The school works closely with the City Centre Catchment Schools and a variety of community agencies to reduce the impact of socioeconomic circumstances and to maximize the learning opportunities for its students.
Photo Credit: B. Christy
April 25 was National Telephone Day. In 1908, telephones, similar to this 1907 Long Box Telephone, were installed in five Edmonton Public Schools: College Avenue, Queen’s Avenue, McKay Avenue, Alex Taylor, Norwood and the Board’s office. The phones were all on a party line so all six phones would ring when a call was placed. Each school had a special ring: one ring was for McKay Avenue, two rings for College Avenue... In 1912 the phones were removed because of the continuous ringing and long waits for the telephone to be free for use.
Photo Credit: B Christy
Donald Ross School: Then and Now
Donald Ross School, which also opened in 1913, was built to accommodate the children of the heavily populated Ross Flats area. Mary McIvor became the first principal and remained so for a record 41 years! The school closed in 1973 with an enrollment of only 44 students. The school was used as the headquarters for the 1978 Commonwealth Games and in 1979 for the City’s 75th Anniversary Celebrations.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P86.15.6
Today Donald Ross School houses Edmonton Public Schools Student Transportation Department, which supports schools by ensuring all students are transported in a safe and timely manner and arrive at school ready to learn. It provides safe, efficient and reliable services for thousands of students who use Division-arranged transportation.
Photo Credit: B.Christy
Parkdale School: Then and Now
Parkdale School was scheduled to open on April 13, 1913 however a fire causing more than $20,000 damage delayed the opening by a month. The mythological Phoenix, which rose from the ashes, was chosen as the school’s mascot. Edgar (Spike) Millen, the RCMP officer who was killed in 1932 by Albert Johnson, the Mad Trapper of Rat River, was a student of Parkdale School from 1913-1920. Another notable student was W. P. Kinsella, author of the novel Shoeless Joe that was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams. Parkdale School was closed in June 2010.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.9.12
Today, it continues to serve the community as the home of Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society.
Photo Credit: B.Christy
Bennett School: Then and Now
The year 1913 saw an unprecedented opening of 13 new schools in Edmonton. Most of these were temporary buildings designed to meet the needs of a rapidly growing city. Four permanent schools opened that year, construction having started on them in 1912. One of these schools was Bennett School; named after Thomas Bennett, the first mayor of the town of Strathcona and early school trustee. When the North Saskatchewan River flooded in 1915, nearby residents took refuge in the third floor assembly hall of Bennett School. The school was closed in 1973 but reopened in 1981 as the Bennett Environmental Education Centre. Today the Bennett Centre hosts field trips, day retreats, weddings, and overnight group accommodations.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P86.15.41
Photo Credit: B. Christy
McCauley School: Then and Now
Named after Matthew McCauley, one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the first free public school in Edmonton, McCauley School officially opened on March 7, 1912. The school featured separate boys and girls entrances. As was typical of school construction at that time, the assembly hall, which also served as the gymnasium, was on the third floor. McCauley School closed in 2010. It continues to serve the community as the home of the Edmonton Intercultural Centre.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.7.26
Photo Credit: B. Christy
Rutherford School: Then and Now
Another large school operating in the city of Strathcona at the time of amalgamation was Rutherford School. It was, of course, named after Alberta’s first Premier. The four room school was built on land originally owned by the Rutherford family and opened in 1911. Students came from an area marked by Whyte Avenue to the south, the edge of the river valley hill to the north, the city limits to the east and Mill Creek Ravine to the west. Maude Bell was principal from 1911-1941 and was extremely resourceful. When she could not obtain sports equipment from the Board, she had the field to the west of the school plowed. The students planted potatoes in the spring, tended to them throughout the summer and harvested them in the fall. The potatoes were sold for enough money to buy the sports equipment. Today Rutherford continues to serve the community as a Kindergarten to Grade 6 school.
Photo Credit: Glenbow Archives NC-6-769
Photo Credit: B. Christy
Arabic Bilingual Language Program
Today marks the beginning of the month of Ramadan for Muslim people around the world. A language synonymous with this celebration is Arabic. In 1983, Edmonton Public Schools launched an Arabic bilingual language program at Glengarry School. Pictured are students receiving Arabic language instruction at the school in the fall of 1983. Today the program operates in four elementary schools, two junior high schools and one high school (Queen Elizabeth School).
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P95.78.134
Libraries in Schools
This week has been National Library Week. In 1955, Edmonton Public Schools Board of Trustees approved a policy of including library rooms in all new schools and additions. A year later, a program of converting extra classrooms to libraries began. Pictured is the W. P. Wagner School library in the early 1980s.
Photo Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P96.55.16
April 7 is National Bookmobile Day. Similar to a bookmobile, Edmonton Public Schools operated travelling libraries in the early part of the 1900s. The featured book “Echoes” was part of one such travelling library. As can be seen from the ledger, there were several libraries that were sent to various schools for a period of two months. It was not until the second half of the 1900s that libraries were included in all new schools.
Source Credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum 85.15.4
Source credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum 2010.13.2
Oliver School: Then & Now
Due to the rapid population growth in Edmonton there was a boom in school construction from 1910-1913. Oliver School was the first school built during this boom. Construction of the school was completed in 1910 and the official opening was March 31, 1911 - exactly 110 years ago today! Each of the 12 classrooms was designed to hold 50 students. A miniature rifle range was incorporated into the design of the school and was eagerly eyed by scores of school cadets. Two teachers: Miss Robina McMillan and Helen Raver were on the Oliver staff for a total of 85 years (from 1919-1962 and 1922-1964 respectively)!
Today, Oliver School continues to serve the local community as an elementary school, including French Immersion, as well as the wider Edmonton community with the Nellie McClung Girls’ Junior High Program.
Photo credit: Glenbow Library and Archives NC-6-103
Norwood School: Then & Now
The beginning of Norwood School was in two temporary wooden buildings that were constructed in 1906. Some parents objected to the location of the school, due to the close proximity of piggery, a nuisance grounds (garbage dump) and a slaughterhouse. The school was even referred to as Rat Creek School, due to the creek flowing south of the buildings, before the name Norwood School was formally chosen. These temporary buildings were last used in 1914.
Photo credit: Provincial Archives of Alberta B3872
In 1908, construction began on the present day Norwood School and the official opening was February 26, 1909. At this time, enrolment in the temporary Norwood School buildings was averaging 51 students per room. A year previous, the Trustees had been criticized for building such an expensive school in the “wilderness”!
Photo credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.8.30
Today, Norwood School continues to serve a diverse community as a Kindergarten to Grade 6 school with a variety of programs. Part of the school philosophy is to create a culture of empowered, expressive and joyful learners.
Photo credit: B. Christy
Old Scona School: Then & Now
Another school that started off as part of the Strathcona School District is Old Scona. When construction began in 1907, the Strathcona Collegiate Institute was described as the best equipped school in Alberta. It was the first high school built on the south side. In 1913, the name was changed to Strathcona High School. Old Scona has served a variety of purposes. In 1958 it ceased to be a high school and until the mid ‘60s it housed junior high classes. Later it served as a special education school, a continuing education center for adults and an annex of Grant MacEwan Community College. In 1976, Old Scona reopened as an academic high school. Today, Old Scona Academic School continues to prepare its students for post secondary, just as it did back when it first opened. The academic program has been in place for 45 years and continues to see Old Scona ranked as the top public high school in Alberta.
Photo credit: Provincial Archives of Alberta B3845
Photo credit: B. Christy
Queen Alexandra School: Then & Now
Queen Alexandra School, being on the south side of the river, was built in 1906 by the Strathcona School District #216 and was originally named Duggan Street School. In 1908, the third floor assembly hall served as a temporary lecture hall to 45 students attending the newly formed University of Alberta. It was renamed Queen Alexandra School in honour of the wife of King Edward VII in 1910. When Edmonton and Strathcona amalgamated in 1912 it became part of Edmonton Public Schools. A large addition was completed in 1913. Today, Queen Alexandra School continues to serve the community as an elementary school and offers both the Logos Christian Program and French Immersion.
Photo credit: City of Edmonton Archives EA-10-3052
Photo credit: B. Christy
The Water Bucket
In the first decade of the 1900s Edmonton was experiencing a rapid growth in its student population. Several temporary schools were hastily built: Norwood Extension and Syndicate Avenue North and South were built in 1906. While the students at Queen’s Avenue, McKay Avenue and Alex Taylor schools were enjoying running water and indoor toilets, students at the temporary buildings still had to be content with water buckets, dippers and outhouses. In the summer water would be delivered by the water wagon and stored outside in large wooden barrels and in the winter could be obtained from melting snow.
Early Reading Textbooks or “Readers”
Today is International Read to Me Day. Through the years many “Readers” have been used in Edmonton Public Schools. Today we are sharing three (3) of these books spanning 86 years.
1) The Ontario Readers: Second Reader was used for Standard 2 which is equivalent to Grade 3 and 4. It was authorized for use from 1890 - 1907. Many of the stories were meant to teach a moral lesson.
2) Dick and Jane Basic Pre-Primer would have been beginning Grade 1 and was used from 1939 - 1946.
3) My Little Blue Story Book was also a pre-primer. It was an authorized text from 1957 - 1976.
Alex Taylor School: Then and Now
Alex Taylor was the first of only a handful of Trustees in the history of Edmonton Public Schools to have the honour of a school being named after them while serving as an elected official. The cornerstone for Alex Taylor School was laid in a colourful ceremony in August 1907 and the school opened in March of 1908. In 1914 a program was launched at Alex Taylor School, and one other school, to provide lunches to the children of impoverished families. The cost for pupils able to pay was 2c for a cup of milk and 1c for each slice of buttered bread. Children unable to pay were provided with a free lunch. The school closed in 2001. Today it serves as the centre for Edmonton City Centre Church Corporation (E4C). E4C delivers multiple programs in adult literacy, hot lunch programs and family counselling services.
Photo credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.3.26 and P85.3.23
Early Arithmetic Textbook
March 14, was the International Day of Mathematics. The Dominion School Arithmetic textbook was published in 1908 and authorized for use in Alberta 1912-1922 in Grades 7 and 8. It would have been one of the earliest authorized resources utilized by Edmonton Public Schools.
The second photo comes from the review section at the beginning of the book so it would seem reasonable to think that a student leaving grade 6 would be capable of doing these questions. Anyone care to give the problems a go?
McKay Avenue School: Then & Now
Of the 36 public schools built prior to 1921 half of them are still standing and continue to serve our community. We will be featuring these centenarians over the next several weeks.
Built in 1904, McKay Avenue School is now the oldest brick school still standing in Alberta. It was named after Dr. William MacKay, who worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company until 1898 when he opened a private practice in Edmonton that he ran for 19 years. The road in front of his house was named in his honour but it was spelled “McKay” Avenue. Subsequently, the name of the school was also spelled incorrectly. When Alberta became a province in 1905, our government met for the first two sessions on the third floor of the school. In 1912, a four room addition and second front entrance was added.
McKay Avenue School closed in June 1983. Already a Provincial Historic Site, it was saved from demolition and lovingly restored, partially with the assistance of students from W.P. Wagner School. Today it is a public archives and museum. In addition to facility rentals and self-guided tours for the public, the educational programs in the two historic landmarks help to give students a sense of place and history.
Photo credit (b&w image): Provincial Archives of Alberta B3862
Indoor Plumbing at Queen’s Avenue School!
Tomorrow, March 11, is World Plumbing Day so it is only fitting to do another post about Queen’s Avenue School. If you look closely at today’s photo and the previously posted photo, you can see the row of outhouses behind the school. These were of course a necessary fixture at schools. In 1904, much to the delight of students and staff, indoor plumbing was installed and Queen’s Avenue School became the first Edmonton Public School to have indoor washrooms.
In our previous post, we mentioned that the arrival of the railroad brought with it both noise and safety problems. Despite this, Queen’s Avenue School was used until 1926 when it was sold to the railroad company and eventually demolished in 1949.
Photo Credit: Provincial Archives of Alberta B3901
Queen’s Avenue School
Queen’s Avenue School opened in 1903. It had 10 classrooms and was built to accommodate 500 students. When construction began, people wondered why it was being built in the bush on the outskirts of town. If still standing today, it would be on the west side of the Royal Alberta Museum! In 1905 the Canadian Northern Railway line reached Edmonton and the tracks were 30 metres north of the school creating both noise and safety problems.
Photo Credit: Provincial Archives of Alberta B3882
High School Class 1904
From 1903 to 1911, College Avenue School was used exclusively for high school classes and was casually referred to as Edmonton High School. Despite the crumbling foundation and cracking walls and floor, classes continued until a new high school building was completed in 1911. College Avenue School was demolished in 1918. It was located along what is now Macdonald Drive near the present day location of the Telus building.
Photo credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.7.1
College Avenue School: Our First High School
Built in 1895, College Avenue School, containing four classrooms, was Edmonton Public Schools first brick school. A coal furnace and electric lighting were some of the modern features of the school. When it first opened, the school provided elementary and high school instruction. Before the end of 1896 it was discovered that, in addition to other structural problems, the building had been built on the site of an abandoned coal mine and was slowly sinking into the ground. Many efforts were made to remedy this problem.
Photo credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.7.2
Night School Classes
In 1890 Principal Martin agreed to introduce a night school program, which ran three evenings a week to cater to young people who could not attend day classes. He also convinced the Trustees to add a belfry and to erect a fence to keep horses from grazing in the schoolyard.
In 1891 a third classroom was added to the schoolhouse and a third teacher was hired. The new teacher, Janet Henderson, earned $450 per year at this time. With the addition of a third classroom, the caretaker’s salary was raised to $100 per year.
Photo credit: Provincial Archives of Alberta B3886
By 1888 the student enrollment of the 1881 Schoolhouse had grown to 82 pupils. A 28’ by 36’ addition was deemed necessary and approved for construction. James McDonald, who built the original school, was the successful bidder at a cost of $1,550. Along with the new school addition, the purchase of 24 desks was authorized.
James Martin, who was the present teacher, became Edmonton Public Schools first principal. A second teacher was required and Major Stiff made a reappearance at a salary of $50/month. He remained for one year before he was let go by the Board.
Photo credit: City of Edmonton Archives EA-10-910
“Rules for the Guidance of Parents and Pupils” 1888
In 1888 the first “Rules for the Guidance of Parents and Pupils” were adopted by the Board of Trustees. These rules covered the hours of operation, how to provide consent for students to leave school early for a day, and how to address damage to property.
Source: Edmonton School District No. 7 Minutes (Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum 85.129.2)
Source: Kostek, M.A., A Century and Ten: The History of Edmonton Public Schools (Edmonton, Alberta: Edmonton Public Schools, 1992) 43.
February 21 is International Mother Language Day. Many of the past and present newcomers to Edmonton have a strong desire for their children to be fluent in their mother language. In 1959, Edmonton Public Schools introduced oral French classes in twelve Grades 4, 5, and 6 classrooms. Since then our Division has drastically expanded language programming to include American Sign Language, Arabic, Cree, French, German, Hebrew, Japanese, Latin, Mandarin, Punjabi, Spanish, and Ukrainian.
Pictured is the French theater troupe, Boîte à Popicos, performing at Holyrood School (unknown year).
Photo credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P95.78.136
Book Prize 1886
February 14 was International Book Giving Day. In 1886, when Lieutenant-Governor Dewdney of the North-West Territories visited Richard Secord’s class, he was so impressed that he gave ten books to be used as prizes for student achievement. Ten year old Alex McCauley won the book pictured. The inscription inside the book can be seen in the second picture.
Yesterday was FlagDay! In Canada, this day commemorates the inauguration of the Canadian Maple Leaf. It replaced the British Union Jack and Canadian Red Ensign as Canada’s national flag on February 15, 1965. Pictured are students at McQueen School taking part in a ceremony in June of 1965 raising the Maple Leaf flag.
Photo credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.17.33
Mandarin Bilingual Language Program
Happy Lunar New Year! In 1984 students at Alex Taylor School celebrated the New Year with a dragon dance! Did you know the Mandarin Bilingual Language Program was approved by the Edmonton Public School Board in February 1983? Today, this school program is being offered at 15 Edmonton Public Schools.
Photo credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P95.78.3
Edmonton Technical School Science Lab
Tomorrow is International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Today’s photograph, taken sometime between 1913 and 1923 of only male students in Edmonton Technical School’s science lab, is a reminder of how much more inclusive education is today in Edmonton Public Schools. Today, you will find a strong focus on gender inclusivity and promoting female students in science, technology, engineering, and math courses.
Photo credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P85.5.25
Female Teachers 1889-1946: Imposed Societal Expectation and Lower Wages
Lillian Osborne with students circa 1890. Miss Osborne was to remain a single woman all her life. At this time, only single females were engaged for regular teaching duties and any female teacher who was married while in the employ of the Board was forced to resign. From 1889 to 1946 there was a substantial difference in the salaries of male and female teachers with the same teaching qualifications. Lillian Osborne died on November 3, 1929 while still on staff at Glenora School. She was 60 years old and had dedicated almost 40 years of her life to teaching.
Photo credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P95.88.1
First Female Teacher
Did you know that the first female teacher was hired by Edmonton Public Schools in 1889? Lillian Osborne, daughter of the local postmaster, was employed for over 30 years, and taught at McKay Avenue School, Old Queen’s Avenue School, Delton School, and Glenora School. Today, there is a school named after her.
Photo credit: Provincial Archives of Alberta B8353
Edmonton Protestant Public School District No. 7 (1885)
On February 3, 1885 the School District of Edmonton of the Northwest Territories, Protestant Public School District #7 was created. This was the result of a hotly contested debate in Edmonton as many citizens were opposed to the taxation that would result. It did help with the ongoing financial problems of operating the school.
On January 31, 1941 Alberta school trustees passed a resolution based on a proposal submitted by Edmonton Public School Board Trustees. It encouraged the provincial government to require some form of patriotic exercise such as saluting the national flag, which at that time was still the British Union Jack. For more on this story go to https://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/jan-31-1941-alberta-trustees-want-compulsory-saluting-of-flag-in-schools
Richard Secord was to become the 4th Edmonton teacher in the spring of 1883. Having arrived in Edmonton in 1881 he had actually helped build the 1881 Schoolhouse. He was a popular and effective teacher, teaching for 3 years. He lost his job in February 1886 when he failed in his bid for a pay raise of $5 to $80/month.
Photo credit: Edmonton Public Schools Archives and Museum P91.27.1
Major William Stiff
Edmonton’s 3rd teacher was Major William Stiff, a retired army officer who ran an Edmonton real estate agency. Although he had no formal teacher training he was allowed to teach on a temporary permit. Being extremely strict, his students referred to him as “Old Stiff”.
Photo credit: Provincial Archives of Alberta B2025
Edward Langrell was the second teacher in the 1881schoolhouse. Educated in Dublin, Ireland he emigrated to Canada in 1874. In 1880 he walked from Winnipeg to Edmonton, a trek of over 6 weeks. It is reported that “The boys were very afraid of him. He was very strict.” Langrell resigned his position after only 5 months to return to Manitoba. His wife had refused to stay in Edmonton as she considered it no place for a civilized woman.
The first public school teacher in Edmonton was James Harris. Unfortunately, he only taught for 6 weeks when he became ill, passing away from stricture about six weeks later at the age of 38. Sadly, we are not in possession of a photo of our first teacher.
On January 3, 1882 “Edmonton Public Schools” consisted of 1 school, 1 teacher, and 28 students (25 boys and 3 girls). On September 30, 2020 Edmonton Public Schools consisted of 214 schools, over 9500 staff and 103,655 students.
1881 Schoolhouse Windows, Part Two
The glass for the windows in the 1881 Schoolhouse was shipped from Ontario. In order to keep them from breaking, the panes were put into barrels of molasses. There is a story that when the glass arrived, the children of the settlement were invited down to Fort Edmonton and they licked the glass clean!
1881 Schoolhouse Windows, Part One
The 1881 Schoolhouse had 8 windows containing panes of glass measuring 10”x14”. These were the largest in the community at the time.
The First Desks
The first desks in the 1881 Schoolhouse were made from spruce trees cut down in the river valley. The youngest students would sit four to a form (bench). The desks in the photo are replicas of the original desks.
Specifications for the 1881 Schoolhouse
The 1881 Schoolhouse was the first frame lumber building to be constructed in the settlement of Edmonton. Specifications included a porch and double front doors.
1881 vs. 2021 Construction Costs
The cost of Edmonton’s first public school, built in December 1881, was $968 (roughly $26,000 today). In 2021 a new school will cost in the 10s of millions.
Not only was Matthew McCauley one of the first three school trustees, he became the first mayor of Edmonton, a member of the legislative assemblies of the Northwest Territories and Alberta, and the first warden of Edmonton’s first federal prison.
Photo credit: City of Edmonton Archives EA-10-1565
Our First Board of Trustees
Although there had been mission schools and private schools for many years in the settlement of Edmonton, by 1881 none were operating. Much interest was being generated in building a public school to ensure the education of the children of our settlement. In the fall of 1881, a meeting was held at Donald Ross’s Edmonton Hotel with the purpose of hiring a Board of Trustees. William Rowland, Matthew McCauley and Malcolm Groat were elected as the first Board of Trustees of the Edmonton settlement. They quickly began work on organizing the building of what was to become the first free public school in what is now the province of Alberta. The school was built in December of 1881 and classes began on this day, January 3, in 1882.