There are mixed feelings all around as students and staff at Stuart Wood elementary countdown to the last assembly, says school principal Blair Lloyd.
Tuesday’s gathering marks not only the end of the year but the end of 109 years of public education at the school, which opened as Kamloops Public School 14 years after the City of Kamloops was incorporated.
“We’re sorry to have to leave the school, but at the same time it’s got a lot of deficiencies and needs a lot of TLC,” Lloyd said. “A lot of the teachers are sad and a lot of people have been here for more than 10 years.
Stuart Wood students are moving up the hill to Beattie elementary in September as part of a district reconfiguration that will have Beattie School of the Arts consolidated as a K-12 facility.
Like many an aging school from a century ago, City-owned Stuart Wood has its charms — with imposing Doric columns fronting its brick facade — as well as its limitations, such as a small gym and stairs that limit access for disabled students. That’s why school trustees made the unpopular decision two years ago to close the school despite protests from residents, neighbours and the City heritage commission.
Those two years have gone by in a flash and now the last day is imminent.
Lloyd’s connection with the school is a family one. His father, Gordon, attended Kamloops Public School. Gordon recalls walking up Third Avenue in 1945 when someone drove by and hollered that World War Two was over.
Staff have had plenty of time to reflect on the transition as they’ve packed up materials accumulated over the years. There was an open house in early June to mark the closing and transition. Students presented voices of the past on an outdoor stage to bring history to life. Former students showed up as well, including some who had attended as far back as the 1930s.
“We’re doing everything we can to make the transition as easy as possible for students, parents and staff.”
To help ease students into their new surroundings, they did a tour of Beattie last week.
“The feedback from students was quite positive,” Lloyd said. “Actually, there were a few kids who didn’t want to leave.”
Renovations of the former arts school are complete, though there’s still work to be done.
“There were 10 years of art school supplies to move down to the John Peterson campus and that’s quite a monstrous task.”
The packing at Stuart Wood has been a more ambitious effort, however, as staff have worked to preserve a lot of history on the walls and in storage. Archivist Judy Dunn has been cataloguing materials for storage elsewhere in district facilities.
The City continues to explore potential future uses for Stuart Wood after TRU indicated this spring that it has opted not to make use of it as a satellite campus.