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Princess Alexandra closing ceremony celebrates community, looks to future

June 14, 2022

pacs-news-5.jpgFor Seraphine Sammy, the closing ceremony for Princess Alexandra Community School came with lots of memories.

"I am a parent, and I went to this school when I was in elementary and graduated from here. My kids came here and graduated from here and I have three nieces who come here now too. I am going to miss this school very much, especially all of the parents," Sammy told a crowd gathered on the school's playground

"I am going to miss everybody. I am very proud of this school. This is my school and will always be my school even though it's going to be gone."

Students will walk the hallways of Princess Alexandra School for the last time on June 29. The next day, staff will conclude the final school year in the building built in 1961. In the months that follow, equipment and fixtures, along with historical items, will be salvaged for reuse. After that, the structure will be demolished to make room for construction of a new, innovative school facility on the site.

"The land on which we stand has a rich and proud history," student Penguin Desjarlais said during the land acknowledgement. "In a few short months this building will be gone, and the construction of a new school will begin. This land will always be a reminder of the schools that once served this community. Despite the structure that stands here the land will always keep us connected with the past, present, and future people who gather here."

The school closing ceremony held June 14 was an opportunity to remember, celebrate, and look to the future.

pacs-news-7.jpg"With guidance we set an intention for our final year together — miyo pimohtētān. It represents a mindful, purposeful walk," said Principal Karen Macdonald-Smith. "We committed to moving through this year mindfully and with intention so as to ground ourselves in the present and ensure that we are meeting the holistic needs of our students and staff in a good way. During our final year together, our students and staff have done this and more.

"To our students we are so proud of you. We have had high expectations for your school work and for who you are as people because we know what you are capable of, who you are, and who you can become. We have watched you grow as learners and as people and we are so happy to have been able to support you over the last number of years."

The commitment of school staff to students and to answering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action made Princess Alexandra a school grounded in relational and culturally responsive learning, said Vice Principal Arden Wipf.

"To our families . . . you hold such strength and such wisdom in knowing what it is your children need to be successful in their learning," Wipf said. "You have helped us by sharing their stories and by making sure that we recognize them as the unique individuals they are."

The ceremony spoke to the sense of community that surrounds Princess Alexandra. That spirit will become a part of the students' new temporary home at King George and, by 2025, the new school that will bring together students from three neighbourhoods to share in learning.

pacs-news-12.jpg"The next school that we build here is going to be our school. It's going to be a school where our children can come free, and they can leave anytime they want to go back home knowing they will be taught their own education. Our children matter," said Ward 2 Trustee Vernon Linklater, recalling the legacy of residential schools and the lasting impact on Indigenous people.

"It's going to be a school for our community. This school is yours. Don't feel guilty, you deserve it. Don't feel shy, this is your school."

The schoolyard ceremony at Princess Alexandra was followed by all in attendance walking together to the beat of the drum down Avenue H South then west to Avenue K where King George students and staff waited to welcome them.

pacs-news-11.jpgAn ember from the fire that burned during the Princess Alexandra ceremony also made the journey. It was placed in the fire at King George, symbolizing the spirit of the two school communities coming together. Those who made the walk received tobacco ties which they carried during the journey and then tossed into the fire.

"Help us be brave enough to meet somebody new today and to make that new person a part of our family. And most importantly, help us to help one another to learn together," King George Elder Kathy Eashappie told the more than 200 students, family, and school staff gathered on the lawn

"Help us at King George to let the Princess Alexandra students know that they are welcome, that they are loved, that we care about each and every one of them."

A Long History

pacs-news-3.jpgThe site of Princess Alexandra School just south of 20th Street West has a long history of providing a home for education. In 1907, the Saskatoon Board of Education built Alexandra School to serve the growing Riversdale neighbourhood. Named after Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII, the school was built at a cost of $13,656.25 and opened in September 1907.

Almost immediately, its four classrooms were insufficient to accommodate enrolment, so a portable frame building was moved to the site for students up to Grade 3. A 1908 addition doubled the number of classrooms in the original building to eight. When that was still not enough, two more rooms were added to the portable school, bringing the total number of classrooms to 11.

By 1911, the overcrowding was so significant that trustees approved the purchase of adjacent land and the construction of a neighbouring 10-room schoolhouse that was christened Princess School.

The sister schools operated side-by-side for 50 years until trustees decided to sell the portion of the Princess site fronting 20th Street West. The new Princess School, built at a cost of $297,000, officially opened in 1962 on Avenue H, just north of its previous location. That building was renamed Princess Alexandra School in 1984 after the demolition of Alexandra School.