Little school with big heart
Noah Martin of La Salette brushes up on his geography during Our Lady of La Salette School’s 50th anniversary celebration on Saturday. (MONTE SONNENBERG Simcoe Reformer)
It was cake and ice cream all around this weekend as residents of the La Salette area celebrated the 50th anniversary of Our Lady of La Salette School.
Saturday’s celebration was at once festive and solemn. Children lead the assembled throng in song while two priests – Fr. Alan Dufraimont and Fr. Lucio Couto – said prayers, delivered homilies and oversaw a communion service.
“It’s important to remember that – before this school – there were three others in the La Salette area,” Dufraimont said. “The first school was built in 1848. The Catholic community developed Catholic education here very rapidly. We have much to celebrate and be thankful for. Our forefathers and foremothers were so dedicated. That’s why we have what we have today.”
The sod was turned for Our Lady of La Salette School in June, 1965. Classes began there in February of 1966. At the time, there was a push on at the provincial level to move elementary students from the old one- and two-room school buildings into more modern facilities.
In La Salette, this meant transferring a growing student population from St. Mary’s School beside the old Catholic church in La Salette to the new facility across the road.
Bernie Byer, 62, of La Salette, was a member of the first Grade 8 class to graduate from the new school. He attended Our Lady of La Salette for exactly five months before moving on to Delhi District Secondary School.
“It was the difference between night and day,” Byer said of the new school. “The old school was two storeys and nearly 100 years old. This one was promoted as more modern. It even had television.
“They pushed it in a hurry to get it built. It was eight months from turning the sod to opening it. You can’t build a house that fast today.”
Our Lady of La Salette’s halls and classrooms served as galleries this weekend for displays showcasing the school’s history and the many talents of its students. Principal Jo Skoblenick said students receive an education in La Salette as good as anywhere in the province.
“Our Lady of La Salette School is a most unique place to be,” she said. “For so long it has been considered the little school with the big heart. Our Lady of La Salette has seen the many faces of both students and staff come and go.
“What has not changed is the building itself. Our Lady of La Salette is one of the few schools in our board that hasn’t seen major changes throughout the years. Its footprint has remained the same. We are a little school out in the country with many of the benefits – if not more – of the bigger schools in the big city.”