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This article first appeared in the October 5, 2011 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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A crashing bell, the smell of new paint and too many kids mark seven decades

Since then, the school has been growing. During the late 1940s, students from surrounding communities would venture into the village on Sunday evenings and stay in a rented room until Friday because there was no bus service. About 150 students attended the school at that time.

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Wakefield Elementary School in 1984. Photo courtesy the Gatineau Valley Historical Society.

In 1968, Philemon Wright High School was built, and Wakefield School became an elementary school, and cut back its grades to six.

When Debbie Dunn-St. Jean went to school in the 1970s, there were about 80 students in total.

"As each year went on, the community got bigger. I'm sure the school got bigger as well," said the third-generation graduate, who now has two children at Wakefield Elementary.

With two portables added in the 1980s and 1990s, plus a new building set to open this November, the school is trying to accommodate its 260-and-growing student population.

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Classmates stand on the front steps in 1950, nearly a decade after the new school was built. Photo courtesy the Gatineau Valley Historical Society.

It has applied to the West Quebec School Board for an expansion that would include 12 classrooms, a full-sized gymnasium, a daycare, a computer lab and a new classroom for the K4 pre-Kindergarten program.

"We're growing at a much higher rate than the school board average," said Amanda Dexter, the La Peche commissioner for the West Quebec School Board. The future years won't be any slower.

"We're basically growing by a classroom every year for the next 10 years," she said.

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A class of younger students sit outside in 1960. Teacher Catherine Moore stands in back. Photo courtesy the Gatineau Valley Historical Society.

As Wakefield grows as a community, so, too, does support for the elementary school.

On Oct. 1, more than 70 people gathered at Edelweiss Golf and Country Club for the school's 70th celebration gala, where past met the present.

Former principals, students and parents of current students were indistinguishable from one another. Mingling, glasses-clinking and signing up for items on the silent auction, the crowd was partying for Wakefield Elementary School - or Wakefield School.

"There's a blend of both new families and old families," said Diane Carman, one of the gala organizers. "And an event like this is good to bring everyone together."