Members of the General Vanier School community will soon be waving the flag to celebrate five decades of history.
The Windsor Park-based school, located at 18 Lomond Blvd., will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Thurs., May 9 with a public open house from 4:30 to 7 p.m.
The event will include displays in the gymnasium, a welcome address, a meet-and-greet session and cake and refreshments, as well as the opening of a time capsule — buried by former teacher Gerry Noonan — which was placed beneath the ground near the flagpole at the front of the school 25 years ago.
Without giving too much away, the capsule contains items from that period, including a memory book featuring names and pictures of students, a cassette tape featuring school announcements and music, a daily newspaper, a report card and a picture of then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Noonan, who taught at General Vanier between 1987 and 1997, arrived in the midst of the school’s transition from K to 6 to K to 8, and is proud to have been part of its evolution.
"Things like student council and band all expanded together. It was about meeting the needs of the students and developing programs such as outdoor education, band trips, camps and inter-school sports, when we started having volleyball and basketball teams," he said, noting Manitoba curling legend Jennifer Jones is a former student.
Noonan, who is now retired, said the culture at General Vanier helped the school community foster lifelong relationships and he still enjoys hearing from his former students: "I always had fun teaching and I’m proud of where they’ve all ended up."
Former student Robyn Koropatnick (neé Page), who is now a senior supervising engineer, recalled fond memories of her school years during a recent visit to General Vanier.
"Apart from the paint colours, not much else has really changed," she laughed, noting because of the timing of the school’s transition to Grade 8, she was among the oldest kids in the school for three consecutive years. "It was always so good to come to school."
A former classmate of Koropatnick’s, Dr. Brent Wong, president of Shine Dental Implants, thrived in the school’s all-inclusive culture.
"It seemed like we were family. I was the only Chinese guy there and I don’t remember getting bullied. We all stuck together," Wong said.
"Because we were trailblazers for the middle years, we had to explore things on the go, which I think helped my entrepreneurial spirit. It’s pretty cool when you think about how school shapes you. If my kids were able to have the same teachers, I’d think they’d have won the lottery, too."
Robert Cowie, the school’s current vice-principal, said the open house will be a chance for "past and present members of the General Vanier community to drop by and see some old faces, new faces and friendly faces."
"Some second generation families attend here and there’s a strong community presence, which is driven by our parent association."
The school’s first principal was Elizabeth Fingas and its current principal is LeeAnn Mytz. It became part of the newly-amalgamated Louis Riel School Division in 2002.