Celebrating 40 years at Perlwin Elementary in Winterton

Melissa Jenkins
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On Feb. 13, 1973 Elizabeth Green celebrated her sixth birthday, and took her very first bus ride to her brand new kindergarten to Grade 8 school.

On Feb. 13, 1973 Elizabeth Green celebrated her sixth birthday, and took her very first bus ride to her brand new kindergarten to Grade 8 school.

Just like Elizabeth, this day was a milestone for the town. It was the day it amalgamated three different community schools — the United school, the Salvation Army school and the Anglican school — into one bigger, newer school — Perlwin Elementary.

Students from other schools would eventually join from the community of Perlican — now an incorporated town called New Perlican — and Turk’s Cove some five kilometres away.

Former principal and resident of Winterton Melvin Green — who shares a birthday with Elizabeth — recalls a sense of excitement and optimism amongst the students when they were moving to the new school.

“Students couldn’t wait to be the first to move into a brand new building,” he said.

The school’s population grew to over 200 pupils.

Now, 40 years later, it has students from New Melbourne to Heart’s Content, a distance of more than 30 kilometres.

In celebration of its big anniversary, students and faculty hosted an informal open house at the school on Friday, Nov. 15.

 

Celebration

Former students and teachers of Perlwin walked the halls of the single storey school, reminiscing about days gone by.

Entering the school’s music room, old videos of assemblies, sports days and guest speakers from the past 20 years could be seen playing on a television screen, says school principal Roger Green.

Principal Green grew up in Winterton, and took over the role of principal in September. He explains he was born in 1973 — the same year the school was opened — and now has returned as administrator of the school.

“The school choir got the evening off to an inspiring start with performances, appropriately enough, of Johnny Reid’s hit song, ‘Today I’m going to change the world,' and Hey Rosetta’s, ‘A thousand suns,’” he says.

A cake-cutting ceremony also took place. The school’s youngest student, Lucas Piercey, oldest student, Alexander Pitcher, and school council chairperson Tammy Bishop, cut the red, green and white cake together.

One of the highlights of the evening included many photographs that lined the school’s walls. Each one contained memories from former school years at Perlwin, including a poster with pictures of the school’s first kindergarten class. Elizabeth was among them.

  

Reflections of the past

The bus ride was one of the most prominent memories Elizabeth had of her first day.

“I can remember going to school and getting on the bus,” she tells The Compass in a phone interview. “Prior to that, I lived next to the school.”

Having to take a bus instead of walk down the road was a change, she explains. But it was one of the “biggest things” Elizabeth liked about that first day.

It is 40 years later, and Elizabeth — still residing in the area — reflects on how things were when she started school all those years ago.

One of the things she prominently remembers is many visitors came to Perlwin to perform or speak to the students.

Elizabeth describes a visit from a basketball team, who resembled the Harlem Globe Trotters with their tricks and performance.

Another event that stands out is a visit from the former Sheila’s Brush Theatre Company, although she didn’t enjoy that very much.

“When we first went there, Sheila’s Brush used to come through every year,” Elizabeth explains. “I was a nervous child, and seeing people in masks…”

Remembrance Day was a big day for the students. Elizabeth says the Legionnaires would come in, and students would speak with them about the war.

Although the events of the school are good memories, Elizabeth describes the personal relationships within the school as the highlight.

Elizabeth notes that teachers and students knew each other outside the school.

“My best friend was the principal’s daughter,” she says. “I knew them very well. Everything in the school was on a personal level.”

 

Still good relationships

Nowadays, some schools have large populations and high student-teacher ratios, but not at Perlwin. With six teachers and some 70 students, the average class size is 12 students.

That is significantly less than the 30-plus students in each class in some schools.

Elizabeth has seen children she babysat years ago go through Perlwin, and some of them have children who are now attending the school. She has personally witnessed the past 40 years of growth and believes not much has changed.

“It is still the same,” Elizabeth explains. “It is still very personal. With a bigger school, students and teachers do not have the same personal connection.”

Principal Green looks at a photo on his computer screen taken of the choir during the school’s open house, and rambles off the names of all 50 students. He only began working at Perlwin in September.

The close-knit atmosphere in the school is obvious while walking through the halls. One student is spending his lunch helping a teacher decorate her classroom for Christmas. A different teacher holds the door to the gym for another student, calling her by her first name.

Although the school has changed slightly, including a dip in enrolment, both Principal Green and Elizabeth agree that after 40 years, the school is a community school.

Elizabeth is hopeful that the age of the school will not affect its need.

“I hope to see Perlwin open for many years to come,” she says.

Melissa.jenkins@tc.tc

Organizations: Grade 8 school, United school, Salvation Army Anglican school The Compass Brush Theatre Company

Geographic location: Winterton, New Perlican, New Melbourne

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