There's a school in the Oliver community that is celebrating quite a milestone this year. École/Escuela Grandin is marking its centennial and they are inviting all former students, staff and Oliver community members to participate in the celebration. The neighbourhood has gone through a transformation since the school first opened its doors in 1914; Edmonton was a city on the eve of monumental changes, both close to home and on a global scale. As the glory days of Fort Edmonton and its role in the community was winding down, the expansion of business opportunities and industrial growth meant a boom in population. With a greater number of families settling in the urban centre, both civic and educational institutions in Edmonton were racing to meet the demands of their constituents.
Even though we now consider Grandin to be a ‘downtown' community, in the early part of the 20th century Grandin was considered the west end of Edmonton. By 1914, however, the rapid growth of residential communities past the train tracks resulted in Catholic families' plea for a school closer than St. Mary's on Third Street. So with the generous support of the Faithful Companions of Jesus, plans were made for a new school, the ground broken, and the solid brick structure known as Grandin School opened.
Grandin has always held a unique position within the Edmonton Catholic School District, or ‘separate' school district as it was known at that time. Its proximity to both the paroisse(parish) St. Joachim as well as the parish of St. Joseph and the Basilica gave it the intriguing role as a part of the bridge between the French and English speaking Catholic communities, particularly during periods when tensions ran high between these groups. Grandin has maintained strong relationships with both parishes, enhancing both educational opportunities and celebrations of Faith.
The role the school has played in the surrounding communities has always been an important part of its identity. The original building was designed to incorporate facilities for the local cadet groups, which became very important for youth and community groups during the war efforts of World War I, and later, the second World War.
Language and Culture have always been important aspects of the Grandin community. In its 100 years, the school has been English speaking with French classes, fully bilingual in French and English, and as its current incarnation, a French and Spanish Immersion school. It has housed Pre-school to High School classes at various points in its history, often serving to fill gaps between the construction of new schools in the area.
Several religious communities of Sisters also found homes at Grandin, from its very earliest days. The Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ), whose arrival in 1888 marked the start of the Catholic school district, took on the great responsibility of opening and staffing the school and supported its growth over the years, both academically and spiritually. Even as the number of lay teachers grew, and the effects of Vatican II swept Catholic schools across the country, the FCJs were integral to the school's operation from 1914, until the very last sister left its employ in 1967.
The Soeurs de l'Assomption (Sisters of Assumption-SASV) supplied the school with French Language teaching sisters from the very first. Sisters from The Filles de Jésus later joined them in that regard, having been integral to the Oblate and St. Joachim congregations since their 1902 arrival in Edmonton.
Grandin has the distinction of being the oldest continuously used school building in the Edmonton Catholic School District, and is indeed one of the few remaining original school buildings in our District. The addition in 1953 of a Gymnasium, and in 1962 of the north side classrooms, have not diminished the impact of the original building. One of the few buildings at the time to have been built from solid brick, the classically influenced building holds a special place in not only the history of our schools, but also the community in which it stands.
Grandin school, and the generations of staff, students and families who have walked its halls stand witness to the growth and progress of our city, and the communities of which it is composed. Its ability to adapt to the changing needs of its patrons, while never compromising its core purpose of providing a strong, faith-based Education makes it a truly amazing living legacy for us all.
Grandin would like to collect stories and photos from the past 100 years. Were you a student? Did you work at Grandin? Then please share any stories and photos! If you would like to participate in any of Grandin's Centennial events log on to www.grandin.ecsd.net or call the school at 780