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This article first appeared in the May 25, 2016 issue of the The Low Down to Hull and Back News.External Link Reprinted with permission. Search complete list of Low Down Articles.

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Three rural schools become one

Chelsea Elementary turns 60

By Karen Moore

Chelsea Elementary School is celebrating turning 60 years old in its current building. It was on Dec. 10, 1956 that the new Chelsea Elementary School keys were given to the principal, Mrs. Stickler. The opening ceremonies for the school were held in January of 1956.

Three rural schools came together in 1956 to form the student body of Chelsea Elementary School. Most of the students came from the original Chelsea School, a two-room building located on Mill Road. This small building had undergone many transformations. It went from a school without running water and without electricity to one with electrical power and indoor toilets.

Chelsea Elementary
Chelsea Elementary is a little gem nestled in the trees. File photo.

"It was an ugly building," recalled Heather Quipp, a Chelsea resident who was a student in 1955-56.

The new school, set to open the fall of 1956, had construction issues and the opening was delayed, leading to the overcrowding of the Mill Road school. Chelsea resident Robert Hughes remembers that his classes were only for half the day, so the rest of the grades could attend school as well.

The two other rural schools that combined to make Chelsea school have faded from memory. Seven students came from the small Cascades school and fewer than a dozen came from the dissolved community of Ironsides, which was located where a strip of car dealerships is now located between the railroad tracks and Alonzo Wright Bridge.

Quipp remembers the excitement of carrying her school supplies down Old Chelsea Road to a brand new school. A school designed for many students with separate classrooms for different grades and, most importantly, a school with a gym. No other school in West Quebec had a gym. "This gym was hard fought for by the trustees. People of all ages could now gather outside of church halls for meetings, playing cards, and social events," recalled Quipp.

In an essay she wrote in Grade 3, on her first day at the new school, Heather Quipp described her new classroom.

"We like our new school very much. Our room is nice and bright. The walls are painted pink and grey and the blackboard is green, because it is better on the eyes. We have seven windows in our room and lots of cupboards to put our books away. We want our new room to look nice and tidy - that is why we hang up our coats on a coat hanger and put our boots in a row. We pick up all the nasty papers on the floor, too."

Chelsea Elementary
A message written in the old Chelsea School's (Mill Road) visitor's book. It is the final message in the book and indicates that they are moving into their new building. Photo courtesy Correne Giles.

As Chelsea's population grew rapidly, so did the population of the school, quickly becoming too small to hold all the baby boomer students. Portables were added, but finally it was agreed that Chelsea school needed to be expanded. An addition was added in 1991-92. What was once the school gym is now the Multi Purpose Room. The Grand Hall, Kindergarten Hall, gym, and Grade 1 and 2 Hall are all recent additions to the school. The portables became home to the school's After Four program, but were eventually boarded up.

Chelsea's After Four Program was another West Quebec first, operating for 40 years. It started out with 15 children and reached a peak of 200 some years ago. Currently, 120 students are registered for the program.

Most of the outside play area of Chelsea School has changed and grown with the needs of the community, but some of the original 1950s play structures are still in use, such as the dinosaur climbing gym that is still loved by Cycle 1 students. The staff at Chelsea school has been innovative with its outside space. In the early 1970s, a group of parents created an adventure playground with rope ladders, cable rides, and mini tree houses. The play structures did wear out, but were soon replaced by a tugboat as the main play structure in the front of the school, again a West Quebec School Board first. New play equipment was installed in 2011, including a climber for the Cycle 1 children in the back and a larger play structure and play equipment for the Cycle 2 and 3 kids in the front of the school.

Chelsea School has been a vibrant part of the Chelsea community for the past 60 years. Celebrations will be held June 4. Editor's note: This article originally appeared in The Low Down ten years ago. It has been modified and updated for this edition.

Chelsea Elementary
The first principal of Chelsea Elementary, Mrs. Stickler (could a principal have a better name?) with the class of 1956. Photo courtesy Gatineau Valley Historical Society.
Chelsea Elementary
The tugboat that sits out front was a first for the Western Quebec School Board. File photo.