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100 years in the history books of Glendon School

The sound of a hand-held bell ringing as children run inside from recess through the door of their one room schoolhouse.
In 1915 a group of 23 students and one teacher became the first occupants of a one room school house known as Glendon School.
In 1915 a group of 23 students and one teacher became the first occupants of a one room school house known as Glendon School.

The sound of a hand-held bell ringing as children run inside from recess through the door of their one room schoolhouse. As the teacher throws another log on the fire, the students gather their slates and chalk, ready to learn cursive writing and long-form multiplication.

Sound like a scene from the early 1900's? That's because it is. It's a time that Glendon School is remembering as they get ready to celebrate the school's 100 year anniversary.

The Glendon School District was started in Apr. 1913, with Lawrence Palmer, Will Knight, E.P. Knight and N.G. Palmer forming the village's very first school board. Originally planned to be a mile south of its current location, the entire town was moved to be where the railway was planned to come through. Construction of the school was finished in 1914.

On Jan. 4, 1915, a group of 23 students and one teacher, H.P. Larrabee, became the first class to ever occupy a school that would live to see its 100th birthday. It was 14 years later, in 1929, when a second classroom was added to the one-room schoolhouse. Come Sept. 1939, the Glendon School District became part of the Bonnyville School Division. Shortly after that, Glendon added a high school in 1941.

The years 1950 and 1951 saw a major change for Glendon School. Many smaller schools, such as Flat Lake, Gifford and Therein dissolved, seeing their students relocated to Glendon. The Bonnyville School Division was changed to the Lakeland Public School Division and in 1995, upon the Lac La Biche School Division being dissolved, came the formation of the Northern Lights School Division.

The most recent change to the school came in 2000, with a significant number of renovations and provincial modernization completed on the north wing, which included the home economics room, the shop and the library.

Glendon School Principal Ken Pshyk said the school has made it through every challenge and change it has faced since 1915.

“We've gone from chalkboards to smartboards…we've gone from a one room schoolhouse to multiple grades, we're preschool to Grade 12 in separate classrooms. From one teacher to 34 staff members.”

While the number of students has fluctuated over the years, the school now boasts 288 students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 – a significant increase to the first class of just 23 students. Unfortunately, at times the school has also been under-utilized leading to the demolition of four classrooms.

Pshyk, who has been the principal for 5 years, said that some of the changes have been cyclical, one of those being the band.

“Back in the 1950's we had a huge band, then we didn't have a band for a while. Now the school division is focusing more on the fine arts, so we have a band again.”

As expected, the most significant change is the change in technology. Pshyk said with kids as young as Grade 3 and 4 now having cell phones, it has changed the way lesson are taught in the classroom.

“In many of the classes they're welcome to use their iPhones for research. For example today they were dissecting a pig to learn about the human body so they could possibly use their phones for research. Or they could use their phones as dictionaries. The division also has first generation iPads that we're using with our Grade 5 students, there's a lot of instructional games they use them for.”

“In the 1950's if you had a cow you milked it. Now if you have a c.o.w. you have computers on wheels,” joked Pshyk as he explained that they have a trolley with computers than can be booked by teachers.

However after 100 years has passed, some things at Glendon School still remain the same.

“Some things that haven't changed - kids playing outside hasn't changed. You can see them still building snow forts and snowmen in the wintertime. In the summertime there are still ball games that go on, they play baseball.”

With the exceptions of renovations to the floors and walls, the gym being used at the school currently is the same space as in 1960.

Over the years, the unassuming school in the little hamlet in northern Alberta had its share of students who would one day be national celebrities. Canadian country music star Brett Kissel attended Kindergarten in Glendon. Another former student also went on to work on the Canadarm (a remote controlled mechanical arm which spent 30 years with NASA's Space Shuttle Program) said Pshyk.

In honour of Glendon School's centennial, events for both the students and the community are being held to celebrate. Starting with the school function on May 29, students and staff at the school will be celebrating and Pshyk said the band will be playing.

On the following day, May 30, the 100-year anniversary celebration for the community will be held. Beginning with a pancake breakfast, there will be a mini-fair, activities for the kids, a pick-up ball game replicating the ones from the “old days”, guest speakers and a light dinner. The school will also be open all day for event-goers to wander through. To finish off the evening, there will be a fashion show highlighting the different clothing from 1915 to 2015.

With a history as extensive as Glendon School's, Pshyk said it's a history that needs to be remembered by all in the community.

“Glendon is known for being kind of a traditional school. We have to know where we came from to see where we're going. It's important to celebrate our history, to celebrate our past and everyone who has become a part of all of these kids' lives. We have no idea how many lives we may have touched as teachers or as staff, everyone from the custodian to the principal to the superintendent. We've touched so many lives, and it's also important to celebrate that.”

So what does the next 100 years hold for Glendon School? Pshyk said it's hard to say, but he's hoping the school will continue to grow as it has done in the past.

“Our numbers are steadily increasing. What does the future hold? I really couldn't tell you. But I see our school getting larger. We have lots of plans for hopefully upgrading our home economics room and our shop.”

To find out more about the history of Glendon School contact the Glendon Historical Society about their So Soon Forgotten DVD at [email protected].

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