Maple Leaf School turned 50 years old in 2006. In 1956, the year of the Hungarian Revolution, the Suez Crisis in Egypt and closer to home the famous “Pipeline Debate” in Ottawa, the decision was made to build a new 4 room school on McIvor Avenue.
McIvor Avenue in 1956 looked very different from today. There were only a total of 30 homes on McIvor from Henderson Highway to Raleigh with 7 of these homeowners also having active mink farms. McIvor itself was a gravel road with deep ditches and no sidewalks along its entire length.
All students in the northern part of North Kildonan went to Lord Kitchener School, the present John Pritchard on Henderson Highway, prior to the construction of Maple Leaf School. This was quite a walk for students, especially younger students. In these days there were no provisions for staying at school for lunch as all students were expected to make the trip to and from school four times a day.
Due to a dispute among the elected members of the North Kildonan School Board in 1954 and the resignation of the entire school board in that year; the actual decision to build a new school on McIvor was made by a trustee appointed by the province to manage the affairs of the school district. the final decision to build a new school, or build an addition to an existing school had to be approved by the voters in a vote of all of the taxpayers of the district in those days. In May, 1956, the voters approved the decision to build the new school.
Maple Leaf opened in November of 1956, but the school of 1956 was a far cry from the school of 2005. The school consisted of just four classrooms, one classroom for grades 1 to 4. Older students still had to make the long walk to Lord Kitchener School. The original building cost $35,000.00 and contained few of the features of today’s schools. There was no library, no gym and not even a storage room, or even a principle’s office. Maple Leaf from 1956 to September 1961 had no principle of its own. The principle of Lord Kitchener acted as the principle of Maple Leaf from his office at Lord Kitchener. In 1956 he also acted as the principle of Princess Margaret School, which had opened earlier in 1956 and for Princess Elizabeth School, which was located beside Princess Margaret. The Lord Kitchener principals acting as principal of Maple Leaf in those early years were Mr. Helgason from 1956-1959, Mr. McGill 1959-1960 and Mr. Neufeld in the 1960-1961 school year.
One of the four teachers at Maple Leaf acted as the vice-principal of Maple Leaf to June 1961 when the first
was made to the school. Mrs. Helen Hopko acted as Maple Leaf’s vice-principal in 1960-1961, and possibly prior to this. Maple Leaf opened in 1956-1957 with 85 students. In the following years Maple Leaf had 107 students in 1957-1958, 113 students in 1958-1959, 122 students in 1959-1960, and 106 students in 1960-1961.
Elementary teacher’s salaries in 1956 seem very low by today’s levels, starting salaries were $2,100.00 in 1956, with the average salary being around $2,600.00 and the maximum salary for elementary teachers in 1956, $3,725.00. Elementary teachers until well into the 1960′s did not have a university degree as this would have required them to be paid higher salary range, which school boards in those days were unwilling to pay. Holders of university degrees were restricted to the junior high and high school grades as a result of this policy with the only exceptions being made for elementary school principals and vice-principals. The typical elementary teacher had one year of training in a teacher’s college after grade 12. But sometimes even this level of education was not met. It was still possible for elementary teachers to have as little as grade 11 education with a summer school training under the “letter of permit” system from the Department of Education.
The first year I have been able to find the actual teachers of Maple Leaf School were the teachers of the 1960-1961 school year. Lillian Morgan taught 28 grade one students at a salary of $4,300.00 for the year. Annie Henderson had a class of 28 grade two students for which she received $4,500.00. Hope Paulson taught 24 grade three students for $3,200.00 and Helen Hopko who also acted as vice-principal taught 26 grade four students at a salary of $4,300.00. Mr. Neufeld acting as principal of Lord Kitchener and Maple Leaf made $7,100.00 for the year.
In a following article I will continue the history of Maple Leaf School.