Elementary school eyes 100th anniversary

If there's a word or phrase that defines Sir John Franklin elementary, it's community-minded, according to Anne Brodie.

The East Side school is preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary in late April and Brodie has taught at Franklin for 34 of those years.

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"Whenever I think of the school, the big thing that comes to mind is community," she said. "This is a really supportive community-they're supportive of teachers, they're supportive of each other."

Franklin, a three-storey school at 250 South Skeena St., is located in a middleclass neighbourhood in the northeast corner of the city near Boundary and Hastings. Its enrolment sits at about 200 students, which is below its capacity, but registration is growing, according to principal Debra Nothstein.

Brodie recalls enrolment being as high as 330 during her time, but she suspects high-priced housing drove many families out of Vancouver.

"It's dropped quite a bit now, but all schools have declining enrolment in the city. I guess people are picking and choosing schools a little bit more now, but we're finding a lot of young families in the neighbourhood now that are starting to bring their kids here. They like the idea of a neighbourhood school," she said.

Some of Brodie's former students, many of Italian heritage, have returned with their own children.

"We still have a lot of Italian families. What we've found is that a lot of students I taught are now coming back as parents. They're bringing their children back to the school, which is quite exciting."

Nothstein, who started working at the school this year and is on the centennial planning committee, said about 48 per cent of the student population has English as a second language, but most aren't ESL learners.

Like Brodie, she described Franklin as a community-based school.

"We used to have a community designation, but that was taken [away], so the parents have taken on keeping up the community association, so that we do have programs in the school and we do operate largely as a community school," she said.

An evening youth program runs at Franklin to give older children something to do and after-school classes in activities such as piano, arts, crafts and dance are available, Nothstein said. "We have a community coordinator who occupies an office here part-time that kids can go to-she has links out in the community and partnerships to draw on," she added.

Franklin began as a smaller schoolhouse constructed in 1912. The existing school was opened in 1926, with additions in 1954 and 1972. The original schoolhouse was moved across the street, renovated and turned into a private residence.

At the centennial celebration current and past students and staff will be able to relive its history through displays of artifacts, photographs and documentation, including staff meeting minutes from the 1920s to the 1940s.

"[There] will be a walk through the classrooms-each class has taken on a decade and is doing projects around that decade," Nothstein said.

Brodie noted that planning activities are gearing up as the event nears. "We're really ramping up and it's very exciting. There's a lot of interest."

Franklin's centennial runs from 5 to 8 p.m., April 27. Contact the school for more information or to register.

noconnor@vancourier.com Twitter: @Naoibh

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