Grade 6 student Anna Lidberg and her mother Roberta hope the kindness felt at St. James will continue at the new St. Brendan's School.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Grade 6 student Anna Lidberg and her mother Roberta hope the kindness felt at St. James will continue at the new St. Brendan's School.

May 30, 2016
THANDIWE KONGUAVI
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Teary-eyed, Michele Wallace felt a mix of emotions as she walked down the halls of Edmonton's St. James School for the last time.

She burst into laughter with her mother Pat Moorhouse as she pointed to her June 1981 yearbook photo.

"It's just the nostalgia, just remembering everything. And a flood of memories," said Wallace. "Some things, as a child, they seemed so big."

Wallace and Moorhouse were among the former and current students, parents and staff present May 11 for the St. James School closing celebration.

More than 300 people packed the school gymnasium for the standing room only celebration of the elementary school's rich history.

Former student Michelwe Wallace and her mother Pat Moorhouse examine an old yearbook.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Former student Michelwe Wallace and her mother Pat Moorhouse examine an old yearbook.

Acting Principal Lori Lundeen said the outpouring of memories from students who attended the school from as far back as the 1940s when it was a two-room school with a lunchroom in the centre, showed the huge role the school has played in the community.

"It shows me how important this school has been to so many people," said Lundeen. "As one of the parents said tonight, 'It's not just the building, but the people inside and the impact they had on each other.'"

FOND MEMORIES

Former students reminisced about the fish pond at the annual winter carnival, the impressive musical productions and the Grade 6 camping trip.

Rita Arlia Kociuba, whose family ties at St. James run over 45 years, also remembered her sister Angela, a former student who attended kindergarten to Grade 6 at St. James before she died at age 14. Kociuba still connects with childhood friends from St. James.

"St. James will always be close and dear to us," she said.

St. James is known for its kindness, said Kociuba, recalling the motto it had for many years: "Be Kind."

"It was plain and simple but it worked," she recalled.

WARMTH AND KINDNESS

Roberta Lidberg remembers the special warmth and kindness she felt when she entered the school for her first open house.

Lori Lundeen serves as acting principal of St. James Elementary School.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Lori Lundeen serves as acting principal of St. James Elementary School.

"It's just always been that way. I can honestly say that feeling has never faltered," said Lidberg, whose daughters both attended St. James from kindergarten to Grade 6.

"Even if I went over to the Bonnie Doon health clinic with my kids, they'd say, 'Where do these kids go to school?' And I would say, 'St. James.' And they'd say, 'Oh, that's such a beautiful loving school.' Everybody knows that's St. James."

Since opening in 1953, the school served the communities of Bonnie Doon, King Edward Park, Avonmore, Donnan, Holyrood, Ritchie, Hazeldean, Strathearn and Idylwylde.

NEW ST. BRENDAN SCHOOL

It is being closed along with St. Kevin Junior High and St. Brendan School in order to build a new school to accommodate students from all three schools. The new St. Brendan Elementary-Junior High will open in the fall.

Wallace, who now works for Edmonton Catholic Schools, is also a part of the team helping to rebuild St. Brendan.

"So there's a lot of different emotions going on for me," she said. "Knowing that a piece of me and St. James is going to be in St. Brendan and today's students get to experience that community as well, it's gonna be fantastic."