As the school year ends for kids at Clayton Elementary, so too ends an era for the Clayton community.
Kids have gone to school at that location on 184th Street and 76th Avenue since 1870. First across the street, on what was then known as Hall’s Prairie Road.
“Back then, a homesteader saw the need for a school in the community and built a one-room log cabin to serve as a school,” Surrey Schools noted in a post on their website June 20.
Then, as the need grew, a one-room schoolhouse was built across Hall’s Prairie Road in 1891. That building was replaced thirty years later in 1921 with a new two-room schoolhouse—the same building is still in use 101 years later as part of the current Clayton Elementary School.
“Clayton Elementary has been a pillar of the community for Clayton residents, be it the current version of the building that was completed in 1921, or the previous version from the late 1800s,” Laurie Larsen, Surrey Board of Education chair, said in the post to surreyschools.ca. “It is important to recognize and remember the important contributions this school has made to its community, but also to recognize and express a sincere gratitude to the Katzie First Nation for allowing us to be their guests on this land.”
About 900 metres away, up 74th Avenue, the newly-constructed Regent Road Elementary is set to open in September. All staff and all returning students will start the new school year there.
Lauretta Fenrick, Clayton Elementary School principal, said while staff and students alike are excited to be going to a newly-built school, everyone feels the move is bittersweet.
“Clayton Elementary means exactly that – a community,” Fenrick said. “This is a diverse group of people who believe strongly in their neighbourhood. When we would have community breakfasts, our gym would be full of a lot of chatter and enjoyment of each other’s company.”
She added the strength of the community is a defining feature of the school and that strength will be carried on at the new school.
“Our parents have supported us tremendously, especially throughout these last few years,” she said. “We regularly got messages of support, care, and encouragement during that difficult time.”
Fenrick said her favourite thing over the past few years was something the school came up with called “family groups.” She said it helped build that strong sense of community.
“Groups of students from kindergarten to Grade 7 would gather into ‘families’ at least once a month to learn and play together,” she explained. “One day a student came rushing to the office at lunch asking me to come outside to see something exciting. A couple of students had started a conga line and there were well over 150 students from kindergarten to Grade 7 in the conga line dancing around our playground.”
She added that staff and students will carry on their efforts to build their unique brand of community connectedness at Regent.
“That sense of belonging will be continued at Regent Road for sure,” she said. “They are sad to leave this building but also very excited to be going to such a beautiful brand new one, especially one with a gym that is four times the size.”