This year is most likely Metchosin School’s very last as a place of formal education. Although, considering the history of closing and then reopening of schools in our district, it might be wise to take a wait-and-watch attitude.
In 1913, a new school was built to accommodate the growing population of Metchosin. The one-room school built in 1872, which now houses the Museum, was moved back and a grand classroom built in its place. The new school sat high on concrete foundations with a basement and two flights of stairs to the cloakroom. Boys and girls were separated upon entering schools then, despite studying in the same classroom; playgrounds were often separated, too.
In 1922, city water was piped to the Quarantine Station at William Head and the Women’s Institute raised money to have water piped to a single spigot in the building, making the hand pump and well in front of the school obsolete.
Some years later, a wood-burning furnace was installed in the basement, replacing the stove in the classroom. The heat rose through a large grate in the floor at the back of the room. The early ’30s saw four electric lights with metal shades installed from the ceiling.
In 1949, an army hut was purchased and installed on the same level, providing a second classroom and washrooms. Attendance remained at about 60 for some years then jumped to 80 in 1953. Plans were made to build a proper addition and the old school was moved for a second time, to the southeast corner. Although it was officially closed, it was often pressed into service until moved to its present location in 1959. The basement under the hut was used as a covered play area until it, too, was enclosed and repurposed.
Steady population growth has seen the expansion of the grounds from the original one acre donated by John Witty in 1871 to 4.75 acres. Over the years many additions were made to keep pace with the growing community and expectations of what a school consists of, including a gym and library, ample office space and washrooms. In 1968 Hans Helgesen school was opened to accommodate junior students.
The 2000s have overseen the official closing of Metchosin School and yet in time-honoured fashion, it has been used by the School District and enthusiastic students until this year. In keeping with its long history as a place of learning it has now become a focus for the artistic and cultural community, as a home to the Metchosin Arts and Cultural Association, which provides office, studio and gallery space.
In the Museum are binders of class photographs of East Sooke, Rocky Point, Albert Head, Hans Helgesen and Metchosin schools, covering the late 1800s to the 1980s. We will gladly make copies of the photos for a small fee.
The First Hundred Years: Metchosin Elementary School 1872-1972, by Marion Helgesen, is available for sale at the Museum and is the source I used for this brief history.
– Wendy Mitchell is president of the Metchosin Museum Society. The Metchosin Museum hours are Saturdays from 1 to 4:30 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at 4475 Happy Valley Rd.