Central’s story begins in 1922 as a two-room school. One room was for grades 1 to 4 and the other for grades 5 to high school. It would remain like that for 33 years.
· 1955 – new rooms were added bringing the size of the school to 7 classrooms.
· 1957 – washroom facilities and a gym were added along with continued construction of more classrooms.
· 1961 – the school had grown to 18 teachers encompassing grades 1 to 12
*Around 1967 a new middle/high school was completed in the hilltop area and Central became an elementary school only.
Central’s population kept growing and classes were held in all available spaces of the school, including the stage, the basement of the old United Church (now the Meadowland Suites) and in some rooms of the high school. Students who went to the high school were bussed downtown every Friday to use the library and the gym at Central School. Eventually, portables were brought in and set up on Central School grounds to accommodate all students.
In 1973 the Whitecourt Mini School (now called Kindergarten) was introduced to Central and students were housed in two portables.
1986 brought about major changes to Central. Demolition and construction began on the existing school. A new wing was added and the gymnasium was enlarged and rebuilt as a Community Center. The old west wing (where the parking lot is now located) was removed, and the east wing (now the wing facing 53 Avenue) was gutted and rebuilt. At this time, Central was fondly called the Lego School because of its architecture and colours (reds and yellows). The “new” school was officially opened on March 4, 1987 and housed K-6.
1993 and guess what? Central once again experienced a population explosion. The grade sixes were transferred to Percy Baxter Middle School and Central became a K-5 school. When the population continued to grow too great, more portables were added to the east end of the school.
Over the 2009-2010 school year 5 classrooms and a washroom area were added onto the school. These new additions helped to increase the safety and quality of the learning environment for Central School students.
Whitecourt Central School entered a new chapter in the 2012-2013 school year after a grade reconfiguration. Pat Hardy Elementary became the new school for Kindergarten-Grade 2, and Whitecourt Central School became the school for Grades 3-5 students. A new playground was installed Sept 2015 thanks to the significant fundraising efforts of the School Council.
In the winter of 2022-2023, it was decided that Central School and Pat Hardy would once again house Junior Kindergarten to Grade 5 students. Another reconfiguration took place with many staff switching schools. At the start of the 2023 school year Whitecourt Central School began offering 3 and 4 year-old Junior Kindergarten to Grade 5 programming options. Another new playground was added to accommodate the needs and safety of the new, younger students.
Bits of Interesting Information
*Because of the oil and forest industries, Central school's population frequently flucuated. Occasionally by the end of the school year the names section of the teacher’s register would be completely filled with regular students, transfers in and transfers out. Balancing the daily attendance figures at the end the year was sometimes a teacher, or principal’s worse nightmare. Year end pay cheques were not given out until the County School Superintendant was satisfied that all of the figures were correct.
*The first playground was built by staff members. Although it was scheduled to be built on the east side of the school, it ended up on the west as the builders could not dig any post holes without first encountering a thick layer of rock.
*At one time the land where the Public Library and Library parking lot are currently located, was part of the school grounds. Situated in that area were about four “teacherages”, small houses that teachers who worked at the school could rent.
School History and Bits of Interesting Information provided by
· Helen Butterfield (with excerpts taken from Sagitawah Saga)
· Norman Fawcett