In 2018, a local researcher embarked upon a project to mark the historical one-room school sites in the Bezanson District. The Kleskun Hill Museum Society applied for and received a Community Initiatives Program Grant administered by Alberta Culture and Tourism to fund the project and with the assistance of the County of Grande Prairie No. 1 to install the signs, all the sites were marked by October 2019. There were five school districts in the area; Somme, Bezanson, Lindsay, East Kleskun and Fitzsimmons; however, as several of the one-room schools were actually moved to accommodate an increase in students, the end result was that eleven sites had to be marked.
Back in the day of the one-room schools, the School Districts were independent from the local MD’s and could not expect any financial assistance. The Department of Education approved the creation of each district including the boundaries and the school sites. The quality of education was monitored by school inspectors. The schools were built with a small grant from the government, an extra tax on the landowners and as much volunteer labour as could be found. Often an existing building would be used as a school until sufficient funds were available to erect frame buildings. The school served as an integral component of the Community not only as the educational centre, but also as a gathering place for many events such as Christmas concerts, ratepayers’ meetings, sports days, etc.
Along with ensuring that the sites were all marked with signage, a booklet was also published which provides information on each site along with a map of the locations. The Kleskun Hill Museum Society has copies of the booklet available. Pick up a booklet and spend an enjoyable afternoon locating all the historical school sites in your local area. The booklet contains pictures of students, the schools and information never published before.
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Researched & written by Wanda Zenner Photos – Wanda Zenner collection