“Glenbow School, Cochrane area, Alberta”, 1924, (CU1157357). Courtesy of Libraries and Cultural Resources Digital Collections, University of Calgary.

As spring arrives, we have come to expect a break from school classes. However, a scheduled school-year is relatively new in the Canadian west. In the settlement period, changeable school calendars were caused by a variety of reasons, as illustrated by Glenbow School, once located in today’s Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park.

At Glenbow, it took a frustrating six-months for the local school board to organize funding, find a location for classes, and hire a teacher. Thanks to the loan of a community building, school classes began May 25, 1911 — before the school had even been built. The school board purchased the school site in December 1911, construction began in January, and the school building finally opened in April 1912.

Unbeknownst to the local school board, Glenbow’s first teacher, Miss Ada J. Johnson, wasn’t even fully qualified! By October 1911, Miss Johnson had been replaced by Miss Olive Orr, and she left in November. It took two months to find another teacher: Miss Daisy Nidd, but she lasted only two weeks. In May 1912, Miss Orr was rehired with an increase in pay (to $60/month) and provision of a furnished private residence (a repurposed quarry shack). She taught until October, when the school board ran out of money, but she was again rehired in January 1913. Three months later, Miss Orr resigned permanently to take another position out-of-province.

By this point, Glenbow Quarry had shut down and the local population had plummeted. The school was closed and some of the remaining children were sent to nearby schools. 

In 1921, Glenbow School reopened periodically under the supervision of a succession of teachers who were paid a daily rate, until the departure of the last family from the Glenbow townsite in 1927. The school closed permanently in 1928. The Glenbow school building was then hauled away and reused in another location, where it still stands, unrecognizable after numerous renovations. 

Although formal schooling in early Alberta was unpredictable, parents of the time grasped whatever educational opportunities they could for their children. Today, some teachable moments await on a spring hike through Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park.

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