When 90-year-old former Schou Street School student Betty Gould drove west on Canada Way in Burnaby recently, she was dismayed to see her alma mater boarded up behind construction fencing.
“I was just so shocked. I’d heard they were going to knock it down, and my brother Bill and I were going to lay in front of the bulldozers,” she told the NOW.
Gould, née Diack, grew up near the school at 4041 Canada Way, and the old building is the last remaining landmark to remind her of her old neighbourhood, wiped out by the construction of Highway 1 in 1958.
“It’s always meant a lot to me. That whole neighbourhood was a great area to grow up,” she said. “It was just a super area for kids. We had a lovely walk to school. We had to walk from Clydesdale Street, and we had a lovely trail that went from the back of our yard all the way through the bush there by the creek.”
Nine of the 13 Diack kids went to Schou.
Gould started there in 1935, when she was six, and when there was still a cupola on the roof and the school’s exterior was covered in wooden siding, not stucco.
She loved the school’s distinctive front porch, she said, and remembers teachers taking their classes onto the big fire escapes on the north side of the building on hot days.
So Gould was dismayed at the idea of school being torn down.
That dismay turned to delight when she learned the boarded up windows were not harbingers of the school’s doom but a sign the school will soon be restored to look even more like she remembers it.
The Burnaby school district announced in February 2018 it planned to move its administrative offices to the Schou site and planned to incorporate the old school into the $15-million project.
The district started work at the site this month after getting the go-ahead to demolish the 1970s addition to the school and elements of the original building’s interior so it can be retrofitted to accommodate modern offices.
“This is a chance for us to revitalize this beloved heritage building. The new district office will have a respectful nod to the past, while giving the Schou building both a renewed life and purpose,” secretary-treasurer Russell Horswill told the NOW.
The project will see distinctive heritage elements restored, like the cupola and the wooden siding Gould remembers.
She couldn’t be more thrilled.
“I’m just so happy that they’re restoring it and they’re keeping it,” she said. “It has lots of good memories of good friends and good times. It makes me very happy.”