Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Strathmillan School celebrates half-century

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FOR Strathmillan School, 50 years was a picnic. At least that's one of the things the school did to celebrate its golden moment.

On June 12, the Kindergarten to Grade 5 school's approximately 480 students, with their families and staff, gathered for an old fashioned family picnic, complete with cake, on the school grounds.

But that's not all for the festivities this year. In April, grade 4 and 5 students staged a musical blast from the past. On Oct. 9, the school will host an open house for past students, staff and the community. From 3 to 4 p.m. that day, everyone is invited to stop by and visit classes in progress. It will be an informal event, with memorabilia on display, and Grade 5 students taking visitors on tours. Then everyone will meet in the gym for refreshments from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The school was built in 1953 and was one of the largest elementary facilities in Manitoba at one time, says vice-principal Sue Marlatt.

The original school opened in 1915, for grades 1 to 3. It was named for the neighbouring estates of Lord Strathcona and the MacMillan family. By 1924, the school had grown to include grades 4 and 5, but it was closed down in 1933.

Sod was turned for the current school building on May 16, 1953. It opened as a 12-room school for students from grade 1 to 8, in 1954. At one time, over 1,000 students attended the school.

Today, Strathmillan has three wings linked by decorated hallways. One hall depicts a rainforest, and was painted by the Grade 6 students and teachers the last year the school included Grade 6. Outside the big gym is the Millennium Hall of Hands, where families left their handprints on the wall after making a donation to the school in order to fund its new play structure. The third wing is wheelchair accessible.

Today, there are grandchildren of the original students who attend Strathmillan.

In 1985, Strathmillan was the first elementary school in St. James-Assiniboia School Division to integrate students with special needs. It also now offers four multi-age (optional) classes, two with grades 1 to 3, and two with grades 4 and 5.

Grade 2 teacher Pat Opalko fondly remembers attending Strathmillan School from September 1955 to June 1957, for grades 6 and 7. She returned to the school seven years ago, as a teacher.

Opalko says the school housed so many students in her day, they had to stagger class hours. For half the year, some kids would attend from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and others would attend from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Then they would switch for the second half of the school year.

"It wasn't bad for me," says Opalko. "Although I do remember riding my bike to school in the dark, and from school in the dark."

Opalko fondly remembers her teachers at the school, including Mrs. Robinson for Grade 6 and Mrs. Hunt for Grade 7.

Some of the friends Opalko made there have remained friends for a lifetime. That includes her current golf partner, Merle MacFadyen.

Those planning to attend the Oct. 9 open house are asked to register early by calling the school at 888-0148.

PHOTO LINDA VERMETTE/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 25, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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