Volunteers invest over 5,000 hours in "First Village School"

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The Kneehill Historical Society saved a nearly condemned historical structure by re-purposing the “first village school” that opened in 1914. It now sits beside the museum and will be opened as soon as it is finished.

“Our idea was, let’s move in an old school,” said Rosalie Lammle, president of the Kneehill Historical Society. “If we could have the option of offering school classes with kids experiencing what an education was for school children under the harsh conditions of our county.”

The building will be used as a year-round display, visitor information, museum storage and volunteers’ conservation, and a preservation workshop.

One room in the school will be offered elements of early education for school classes from Kindergarten to grade nine, the second room will be used as a year-round information centre with display walls for local art, photographic displays, maps, and Kneehill County history. The school will also be wheelchair accessible, as well as have a wheel chair accessible bathroom in the school house.

The original village school had two rooms, one for lower grades, one to eight, and one for upper grades, nine and ten. When it first opened, the two room school served 120 students. Early pioneer families would trade land and move in to be closer to town so their children could attend the school. Students came from the mines, the village, and the surrounding area.

Only having two rooms for 120 students forced expansion and plans were immediately put into place to build the four room brick school.

The school has served as many different identities over the last century such as the village hall, the Alberta Provincial Police Detachment office, the court house, the town office, hall and tax collection office, the library, the RCMP detachment, the civil defence shelter, the fire hall, the kindergarten, and the day care.

Eighteen local Trades people from Red Deer to Acme were employed. All contributing expertise in resource-conscience ways and all collaborate freely on the project. More than 28 volunteers contributed more than 5000 hours and they continued to add time as they see the project to completion. Volunteers also continue to bring school artifacts to complement the school room.

The renovation and restoration have made the old school house look like it was brand new again. The original high ceilings were hand scrubbed, restored, and repainted to match the original cream colour of the village school house. Other things that have been done are having new flooring put in, the bell tower is in working condition, and the building has been properly insulated.

It is worth the trip to visit the great work everyone has put in for this project.

“Our community has been wonderful,” said Rosalie.

The Kneehill Historical Society is having a dinner and silent auction fundraiser on April 7, at the Three Hills Community Centre. The funds from this event will be going towards the completion stage in the school room.