From Continuation School to High School

By George Evans

The old Chapleau High School just west of the Anglican Church
The Old High School next to St. John's Anglican Church in 1962.

Though Chapleau began in the mid-1880s, secondary education did not begin until the shortly after 1900. It�s first High School opened in 1922.

In the late 19th century, the Province of Ontario recognized that elementary education was necessary but, after the onset of adolescence, formal education wasn�t required for most children. Everyone understood that after mastering the �three Rs� in elementary school, the young male teenager would enter the �real world� and learn a trade. The female teenager, of course, would learn her trade, that of home-maker and mother, at home.

After 1871, the law required at least four months of schooling for all children between the ages of 7 and 12. (Later, the school-leaving age was raised to 14.) All of this was highly theoretical: in Ontario, in 1900, only 57% of the youngsters who should have been attending school were in fact doing so.

In Chapleau, elementary education, in one form, or another, had been available at least since 1886 and a properly constituted public school board came into existence in 1891. High-school education, on the other hand, had to wait until the next century. Exactly when it started in Chapleau is difficult to determine.

Secondary education slipped in through a back door, an institution called a Continuation School. Throughout the province, from 1896 on, cash-strapped rural school boards began to offer the Fifth Book or First Form (i.e. grade 9) as an add-on to their elementary school programme. Other high-school years were added and the Continuation School came into being as a way of avoiding putting out money for a new building to house a real high school.

In Chapleau, at some undetermined time, the four-room public school (opened in 1902) started Chapleau�s Continuation School by offering First Form. By 1914, the Continuation School was moved to the newly completed Town Hall and soon Second and Third Forms (grades 10 and 11) were added to the programme. By 1915 or 1917, the Continuation School had outgrown its accommodation or its welcome at the Town Hall and moved to two back rooms on the second floor of Ecole Sacr� Coeur. The addition of Fourth Form made grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 available to the students of Chapleau.

Then Sacr� Coeur announced that beginning in September, 1922, it needed those rooms and the Continuation School faced it third eviction.

Meanwhile, province-wide, the attitude toward secondary education was evolving. By the 1920s, Ontario�s government and people had come to accept secondary education as a desirable part of the formation of a useful, adult citizen. By that time a majority of Ontario�s teenagers were attending high school. In 1921, the Adolescent School Act raised the legal school-leaving age to 16. Chapleau decided that it was time to have a real high school. On June 22, 1922, the Municipality passed a by-law making Chapleau a High School District and Chapleau�s Continuation School passed into history.

As good luck or good planning would have it, the Public School was about to move into a brand new building (the core of the present Chapleau Public School) and that meant that the new Chapleau High School could start in the old Public School building, where the Continuation School had begun. Unfortunately, when the new school year opened in September, 1922, the new Public School building was not ready to receive students.

From September, 1922, until February, 1923, the old four-room school housed two schools: the public school operated from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the high school came in and offered its programme from 1:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. Then the Public School moved out and Chapleau High School at last had a building to itself.

In 1925, the old wooden, four-room building that Chapleau High School had inherited underwent a major renovation which added four rooms to the original school and encased the enlarged building in brick. And this remained the home of secondary education in Chapleau for forty-one more years, until June, 1966. In the 1970s it was demolished to make way for Chapleau�s Civic Centre.

On the first day of school in September, 1966, students and teachers entered the new Chapleau High School overlooking the town from a prominence on the west edge of town. It was a dream come true �the first building in Chapleau�s history that had been designed and built expressly for secondary education. The fact that the contractor�s workers were still in the building did not really matter.

To those of us who were there that day, it comes as a shock to realise that in four years (2010) the oldest parts of the �new� high school will be as old as was the red brick high school on Pine Street when we abandoned it in 1966.

It must be noted that secondary education in Chapleau was available only in English until the 1960s. Secondary education in French has gone through several phases since then, but that is another story. Suffice it to say here that shortly Ecole Secondaire Catholique Trillium will move into a new building that is being built on Broomhead Road and thus complete the evolution of secondary education in French in Chapleau.

Written by George Evans, based on material found in Vincent Crichton�s Pioneering in Northern Ontario and Robert M. Stamps� The Schools of Ontario, 1876-1976.

Chapleau's first school
This building was the first school to be erected in Chapleau as a permanent building. It was built circa 1890. It was used as a dwelling from 1901 until it was torn down in 1946. It was the Goldstien home for many years and was located opposite the old high school at 21 Pine Street. The picture was taken in 1922.
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