EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Transforming Chapleau Public School into "something significant" in community heritage enclave

Ever since I heard the news that the Algoma District School Board had called for tenders to demolish the historic Chapleau Public School, I have been suffering a wide range of mixed emotions.
 I'm not alone, it seems, as I have heard from so many folks over the past few weeks -- the consensus being that "something" must be done to save it much like Ian Macdonald has so passionately expressed, and continues to do so. Ian, as many readers will know attended Chapleau Public and High Schools. He is the retired head of the department of architecture at the University of Manitoba and Professor Emeritus.
Ian has written extensively on Chapleau buildings.
Before I go any further though, let me explain my mixed emotions. I attended Chapleau Public School, as did my parents.  but more importantly in my life, it was likely the reason that my mother and I stayed in Chapleau after my father Flying Officer Jim Morris was killed on active service in World War II in the RCAF.
Mom, (Muriel E. (Hunt) Morris) had to decide what we would do. Mr. George Young, the father of Dr. G.E. Young, the chair of the school board at the time solved it. Mom had taught at the school in the 1930s before she was married and Mr. Young offered her a position to return. In all, she taught 32 years at CPS and it became a central part of our lives.... much much more than a place where she went to work daily.
I have also heard from other former pupils, and although I promised to keep the name of the following  "musings" anonymous, she sure sums up life at CPS.
Here is a sample: "My favourite memory of grade 1 was the sand box..downside was standing in the corner so often and trying to find someone to tie my shoes..."
Art was "always the fave subject..loved when they pulled down the big maps for us to teach us some lesson...Remember receiving my Salk vaccine in the hallway near the auditorium..that was a scary day...just like the days they would take us for a walk and we would end up at Dr Young's for shots...
"I loved assembly when we would sing all the British patriotic songs..in days of yore...hated when they gave us the cod liver caps and we had to go out and try and swallow or give it to some other kid who loved the taste...
"Absolutely hated the bathroom...to go down those dark stairs and run like hxxl to go and get back up before some monster came.
"I remember lining up for class in the basement and marching like soldiers up the stairs...recess was awesome....even with the cinders...loved the swings...later loved the baseball..would race home...eat in a flash and be back to be first batter up..
"Fave time was when your mother would read to us at 1..we would all put our heads down and rest and listen..
"I remember the time they gave us huge pieces of broken glass to use to scrape the varnish off our desks as they would refinish them in the summer..can't tememebr anyone getting cut but all that crap we inhaled..can u see that in this day..
"I  remember going to school with handicapped kids who were not teased..we went out of our way to include them and treat them special..
"I had a hard time in school till grade 3 when Mr. Shoup (J.M. Shoup) personally took me under his wing...omg I was so scared..I graduated with 98.5..average...I think we had a great education..sad to see the building go...thanks for stimulating my memory before it's gone."
Fast forward to now and the present situation regarding the school. Ian Macdonald has been in touch and makes some excellent points.
He submits "CPS is an integral part of the heritage enclave precinct extending from the Town Centre to Grey Street. Demolition of CPS or substitution of an inappropriate/ foreign  buidling  typology will corrupt this important historical civic asset."

Former CPS pupils V Crichton, MJ, N Ritchie, D Mizuguchi at CHS reunion
It sure is an important historical asset and I searched for some photos to give a glimpse of some activities at the beach behind the school over the years.

 Ian submits that  "Public consultation on demolition of CPS was minimal or non existent. (transparency). Public awareness of demolition intent was minimal to non existent."
" Exploring all possible options for a sustainable solution is a public responsibility. (sustainability - resourceful and responsible use of public assets - ). The Public is entitled to be made aware of what a refurbished CPS has the potential to be before opting to destroy it, " Ian wrote in an email.

He added  that Economic benefits to community from tax revenue and business activity are significant if handled responsibly and creatively. Fiscally responsibility and sustainability, like politics itself, is ALL LOCAL and begins at home. Chapleau has the potential to provide a good example of this.

"Elected bodies such as Municipal Councils and School Boards have the moral responsibility to do the right thing,.  Demolition of CPS is not the right thing."  At this point, just to be clear I would just add to Ian's comment that direct responsibility for CPS rests with the Algoma District School Board  not the council of the Township of Chapleau.
He concluded that anyone can tear down a building but responsible people working together can "transform it into something significant."
A Save Chapleau Public School Working Group has been active in recent weeks, and has decided to send a letter to the Algoma District School Board, the premier and minister of education, requesting that the decision to demolish it be put on hold until the citizens of Chapleau have an opportunity to be consulted and offer their suggestions.
With municipal and school board elections now underway. it would be reasonable to undertake the consultation process after they have been completed. On a very personal note it would be totally awesome to see CPS "transformed int o something significant again" in the life of Chapleau as Ian suggests. However, that is a decision Chapleau citizens must make.  My email is mj.morris@live.ca

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE