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100 years of students pass through Connaught School doors

Reported by Natalie Geddes
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Regina’s oldest school, Connaught School is welcoming its 100th year of classes.

The old brick building at the corner of Elphinstone and 13th Avenue proudly wears the date 1912 – the year construction was completed.

Camille Dumont is starting Grade eight.

“You go here every day and eventually you forget how old and how beautifully designed it is,” she said.

The two-storey building, which was designed by local architect J.H. Puntin, served as a prototype for other schools in Regina. The class rooms are extra wide, and the windows and ceilings reach high.

Standing out on the front lawn on the first day of school George Becket thinks back. Connaught was his elementary school through the 1940’s.

“There was a very much a separation between boys and girls.  There were separate entrances. The south side was the boys and the other side was the girls. It was fairly straight forward -- reading, writing, arithmetic. Sports were not organized in any extent,” said Becket.

Today, the students are asked to keep a USB drive in their backpack. Back when Becket was in Grade seven, students were replacing their fountain pens with the newly invented ball point pen.

For all the innovations students have seen over the past 100 years, time has also become an enemy of this school.

This year, Heritage Canada named Connaught School as one of the top ten endangered heritage sites in the country.

The floors are heaving, there is foundation movement and cracks in the roof slab.

The report sitting in front of Regina Public Schools suggests $18.9 million for demolition and replacement, or the larger cost of $23.2 million for restoration and renovation.

Becket sounds thankful when he says it’s not a decision he needs to make.

“Do you keep something old because of the memory or do you build something new that is going to serve the next generation better?”

But public consultation has shown overwhelming support to rehabilitate the building.

Trish Elliot is a parent and has organized the school's centennial celebrations for later this month.

“This school has survived 100 years I’m sure it will survive 100 more.”

Despite enrollment concerns, the school body has been growing.

For the roughly 350 students that will play and grow in this school this year, George Becket has this advice.

“I just say enjoy yourself because it’s probably the best years you’re ever going to have.”

Edited by CJME's Karen Brownlee.