Duclos Elementary School, in Bonnyville, is celebrating its centennial this year with two really fun events. The first event will be held this month and is for the current students to celebrate what the centennial means. The second event, which is planned for July, is a reunion celebration, open to the public and all students who’ve attended Duclos, past and present. Principal Richard Cameron says the reunion is a homecoming of sorts.
“It’s open to everyone who ever worked here, or went to school here or who had family who went to school here,” Principal Cameron says the Homecoming will be held July 30th at the Centennial Centre in Bonnyville, then on the 31st the school will be open for tours. The centennial year is from 1915-1916. “The school’s taken different shapes and forms over the years, but what we’re celebrating is the 100 years since the Reverend Duclos came to this area of Alberta and started his mission; which was to build a church, a hospital, and a school.”
The Reverend accomplished all three of his missions, explains Principal Cameron, “he was a french-speaking Montreal [native] when he came to this area. There was a group of French Canadians, who wanted their own church, a Presbyterian church. The Reverend Duclos was found because of the french-speaking community, who wanted a french-speaking church. The church grew and changed over time. The church now, is St. John’s United Church, which is the work of Reverend Duclos.”
The original Duclos hospital is still standing, on the south-west end of Bonnyville, on 66 street. “The Duclos hospital existed in Bonnyville’s history since it’s founding in 1916, up until the big Bonnyville hospital, the current hospital, was built,” Principal Cameron explains that Bonnyville had two hospitals at one time and the two merged into one when the current facility opened in 1986. The original hospital is now used as a bed and breakfast.
As for the school, explains Principal Cameron, “for the first several years, the Reverend Duclos and his wife were the first two teachers, and they ran it out of their home, then out of the hospital, and almost ten years after they started their mission, they built the first building.” The first building is still standing, in the same area as the original hospital, on 66 street, it was a residential school for a while, “a lot of country kids went to school there and they couldn’t travel back-and-forth daily. They traveled back on the weekends and lived at the school,” explains the Principal. “The boys had a residence and the girls had a residence, and the girls’ is still standing. The classrooms were on the main floor and the residences were on the second floor.”
The first teacher at the original school was H.E. Bourgoin, “the person of whom the middle school is named after,” explains Principal Cameron, “he worked in the early years with the Reverend Duclos, they were colleagues.” When the school started it Kindergarten to Grade 12 and kids graduated from Duclos until the mid 1950s-early 1960s. The it became up to Grade 9, for many years, when BCHS was built in the 1970s. In the 1990s HE Bourgoin was built and Duclos became the elementary school.
The school moved into Bonnyville in 1954, onto the same block as the current Duclos school. “The old building, which was built in 1954, changed and grew over the years. It stayed active and was used as a school up until the 2000s,” Principal Cameron explains it wasn’t always part of Northern Lights School Division, “for a long time Ecole dux Belle Lacs ran its school out of that building. Then it sat empty for a couple years, kinda fell into disrepair, they tore down some of it and renovated some of it.” Where the preschool and grades 3-4, which is the west wing of the current Duclos Elementary, is part of the new building says the Principal.
The rest of the building from the office down the hall to the east was built in 1993. The architecture is a unique concept of bringing rural and urban together, from the back it appears like a farm, with a silo and barn, and from the front the school looks like rows of houses from the sidewalk.
The event for the students will include cultural celebrations, and slideshows of the school’s history. Principal Cameron says because they are kids, and attend may not last as long, they plan on doing some fun games with the number 100 and displaying to the kids what 100 looks like, for example, 100 marbles or balloons. This way kids will get a visual presentation of 100. The staff and student event will be held on February 19th, 2016
The public event, where any person, past or present, who is connected to Duclos School is welcome to the reunion July 30-31st. If you know someone who is related to the Reverend Duclos, please contact Principal Richard Cameron, by call the school, 780-826-3992.