BERWICK — North Stormont Public School’s 50th anniversary bash is history, but there’s an unfinished piece of business before relinquishing the party completely to the past: A new time capsule will be squirreled away in the upcoming school year to commemorate the event for posterity.
Photographs and mementos from both the school’s autumn 1965 opening and the celebration of its 50th birthday — held June 24 — have been sealed into a box. Its final storage spot had yet to be decided when Principal Joe Harty and Office Administrator Gayle Poirier spoke to Nation Valley News during the first week of July.
Contents of the capsule include items contributed by students, photos from the day-long party that drew over 150 visitors, memories from an “I remember” bulletin board as well as a few pictures from the founding of the school.
Poirier — who attended the school as a student — suggests the capsule could be opened in as little 25 years, for the 75th anniversary.
As for the 50th, Harty says, “I think it went very well,” adding the event benefited from great volunteers, supporters and sponsors in the community. “The gym was packed.”
South Nation Conservation’s Angela Coleman and two colleagues from the watershed authority played key roles in decorating the school, where individual rooms were decked out for each decade of the institution’s history — the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s and above — says Harty.
As the decorating took place, students at the school spent that final Friday watching a movie and touring the St. Albert Cheese facilites. The cheesemaker also donated product for that evening’s celebration, the principal pointed out.
He also cites Majed Elsaadi of Finch Pizzeria for his donation of oerderves and for organizing the Finch Lions Club to handle the bar.
Live music by Ashley McLeod and Ewen McIntosh was well received.
“The people that were here couldn’t say enough how much they enjoyed it,” he says. “The feedback has been huge.”
It was Gayle Poirier who first began thinking and planning for the 50th, raising the idea with Harty when he took over as principal last fall. “Gayle was the heartbeat and the pulse behind the whole thing.”
Rather than kick off the school year with an anniversary event, they chose to hold off until spring in deference to Finch’s nearby 2015 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo.
The occasion drew its share of current officials, including Upper Canada District School Board Director of Education Stephen Sliwa, Chair Jeff McMcMillan, Superintendent Tim Mills, and local Trustee Wendy MacPherson.
Past principals David Wade (’68 -’73), Bob Gilroy (’80-’88) and Larry Berry (’88-’91) visited as well.
Arnott Empey, who attended the 1965 opening in his then-capacity as secretary treasurer of the local school board, lent a photo from that occasion for the enjoyment of those at the 50th.
The school was put up at a time when one-room country schoolhouses were being closed and consolidated. Originally built as Berwick Public School, it housed grades 1 through 8. In the early 1970s, Finch Public School became the site for grades 1 through 4, with 5 through 8 remaining in Berwick. In 1989, Finch was closed, while the school in Berwick opened a new wing and resumed hosting all grades up to 8. Several years ago, Grade 6 became the highest level at NSPS when the Upper Canada District School Board placed Grade 7 and 8 students in its rural high schools — Tagwi in this case.
Note: This article was edited to correct a couple of minor factual errors.