Farewell program held at Fort Livingstone School in Pelly

            “If these walls could talk…” said Karen Vogel, a former student and teacher at the Fort Livingstone School in Pelly, said Friday during a farewell-to-the-school program.

            The walls would talk of laughter, discussions, tears and pain but mostly of learning and growing up, said Vogel, who was one of six speakers during the program organized to say goodbye to a facility that has been in operation in Pelly since 1968.

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            It’s good to see so many familiar faces in the crowd, said Jackie Spencer, a former student and teacher at the school who was emcee for the program. Between each speaker, Darren Kitsch, the band instructor, led musical interludes performed by members of the Kamsack Comprehensive Institute senior band, and Fort Livingstone students on xylophones and percussion instruments.

            This time of year when the school year ends is always an emotional time at school, said Tara Blosha, the principal. But it is more emotional this year because of the school’s closing which signals the end of a chapter in the community’s life.

            Blosha said she had started at the school in Grade 1 in Margaret Whetstone’s class and then returned as a student from Grade 5 to Grade 12, and then returned again as a teacher.

            “Fort Livingstone School is so special,” she said, adding that at the school there is a feeling of family and that is what the students and staff will miss the most.

            “But a new chapter starts for all,” she said.

            Donald Budz, a former teacher, explained that the first school in the area was constructed in 1906 and by two years later it was moved into Pelly. The Medhurst School was soon constructed but by 1967, when a new school was built, it was closed and the building became the site of the Fort Pelly-Livingstone Museum until 2015 when the building was destroyed by fire.

            The Fort Livingstone School opened in 1968 and was first used as the high school, and then by the 1990s after a shop, home economics lab and science area was included, it became a Kindergarten-to-Grade 12 school.

            Enrolment in the school was as high as 200 students, Budz said, explaining that it was the site of many concerts, dramas, athletic competitions, graduations, Remembrance Day services and extension programs.

            In 2015, the high school students were transferred to Norquay, and in September, all the students will be attending school in Norquay.

            Questioning the future of the building, Budz said that the school’s closure marks the end of a chapter in the history of the community. He said he wished the students the best and good luck in the future.

            “This is a sad time and we’re sorry to see the school close,” said Gloria Rathgeber, a former principal. But it is said that change is good.

            Visiting the school, Rathgeber said she was reflecting on all the wonderful students who walked these hallways and went on to do great things.

            The challenge now is to assure that the children, no matter where they are educated, are still prepared to call Pelly their home, she said. “This is a nice building, I hope it will be well used.”

            Maureen Blight, an occupational therapist for the Good Spirit School Division, said that she has been coming to the school for 11 years to work with special needs children and it was always nice to see them progress.

            This school has always had a very caring and supportive environment, she said, expressing hope that as students make the transfer to another school they will be able to find a similar environment in which to learn. She said she is looking forward to working with the Pelly students at the Norquay School.

            Relaying a story on how proud she is being from Pelly, Karen Vogel, said she always felt fortunate for having been educated at Fort Livingstone.

But a school cannot offer all the programs students require when there is a small population, she said, adding that she hopes a good use will be found for the building and revealed that she had contacted Parkland College with a suggestion.

Change is important, and a building may close, but education will continue, she said.

Everyone assembled in the school’s gymnasium was invited to enjoy coffee or tea with strawberries and cream on angel food cake and pieces of a special cake decorated with an image of the Fort Livingstone School while visiting with one another.