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School celebrates half-century of multiculturalism

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The words "happy anniversary" will likely get tossed around a lot this year at R.F. Morrison School, and based on history, staff will hear it in more languages than one.


The Seven Oaks School Division K-6 English/Ukrainian school is celebrating its 50th birthday this year, and staff are busy planning a couple of celebrations to mark the occasion.


Principal Ricki Valcourt said their first event will be a formal fashion show, set for April 25, starting at 6:30 p.m., which will see staff dress up in vintage wear that takes them through the decades the school has seen. Then, on June 7, an outdoor barbecue will usher in the summer.


"It’ll be for alumni, former staff, community neighbours, divisional staff," Valcourt said.


"And for the current kids and their families, there’ll be lots of activities. They’re looking at bouncers, face painting."


The school was officially opened late in 1962, though it may have been operating for about a year before that. Diana Borys, a teacher at the school since 1982 and a bit of a historian on the place, says it had no gym originally: Students of the era used the school’s multipurpose room to that end instead.


From then on, the school saw some fairly rapid expansion. By the early 1970s, the school had expanded, adding a gymnasium in addition to other buildings.


Like any school, Borys said it has seen its ebbs and flows in student population over the years.


"When I came in it was quite strong, they had two Grade 1 classes, the way they have two Grade 1 in English in our school. Then, for many years, we had just one class of each (English and Ukrainian)," Borys said.


"It probably started 10 years ago, even with the English classes, where numbers began to drop. Kindergartens were very small . . . We had to combine classes."


However, the Ukrainian bilingual program has helped to keep it as a popular choice among residents throughout much of its history, and its led former students to return with their kids, or as faculty.


"Staff are former students of Morrison School, and there are a number of children who are children of former students. It’s a community where because of the Ukrainian program, you have that connection," Borys said.


The school has only become more multicultural in recent years, as new arrivals from China, India and the Philippines help to create a rich cultural tapestry at the school, and boost numbers.


This was on display over the holiday season, when the school released a CD of Christmas Carols to mark the 50th anniversary. On it were carols in multiple languages.


Valcourt said she sees the school continuing to thrive in the years to come.


"We have a really rich base here with so many different cultures," she said.
Borys feels confident that when her generation of instructors retires, there will be plenty of eager young talent to take up the mantle.


"As we retire we pass on the torch to younger staff, who are doing a fabulous job," she said.
"They’re bringing new ways of teaching, a new approach, and they’re very keen," added Valcourt.


For more information about the anniversary, the school can be reached at 204-338-7804 or on its website at http://www.7oaks.org/school/rfmorrison/Pages/default.aspx.

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