With the recent announcement that Oxford-on-Rideau Public School is on the list of schools that are being considered for closure next year, the community has rallied around the staff and students to make the case for keeping the school operating. In October, 1963 one of the most experienced teachers at the time, Winnie Lamrock, reported on an historic moment in education: the sod-turning for the new school to be opened in Oxford Mills. Here is what she wrote:
“Next September will open a brand new era in education for public school students in Oxford-on-Rideau township, as sod was turned in an official ceremony Friday afternoon for the new area school. Contract for the $253,000, 12-room school was awarded to Wiseman and Thompson Construction of Finch, and the architect is H. H. Roberts of Westport.
The school will be built on a seven-acre site on the south bank of the Rideau Branch on the northern limits of Oxford Mills, on property purchased from Hilton Buckingham. One of the features in the new school will be a giant gym-auditorium, which will be equipped with a stage and lighting and sound equipment. The school will also feature a PA system, hooked up to each classroom. This will facilitate class announcements and special radio programmes.
Officiating at the sod-turning ceremonies last Friday was Grenville Public School Inspector, Harold Knisley of Prescott, along with Oxford Township School Area Board Chairman, Charles Harris and Reeve Whitney Black. Representing the 12 teachers in the township was Mrs. Dorothea Brown of Burritt’s Rapids, President of the Oxford Teachers’ Association.
The new school replaces the 12 schools now in use throughout the township, and Friday’s ceremony was a climax to a long, difficult struggle for the improved educational facilities in Oxford. The need for improved school facilities became apparent about three years ago, when the Department of Health complained to the school board about the sanitary conditions and general disrepair of some of the school buildings.
A survey conducted by the board showed it would cost the township taxpayer almost as much money to repair the one-room schools as it would to build an area school to accommodate students from the entire township. Hero of the new school battle has to be Chairman Charles Harris. Mr. Harris was one of the few board members of three years ago to advocate strongly for the new area school. Board debates and public meeting incidents rose to such a pitch that, in 1962, all four members of the board resigned, leaving Mr. Harris as the sole survivor.
A by-election last November, and then a general election in December, brought in four new board members, Willis Hamilton, Dwight Bennett, Lorne Pominville and Dwight Bolton, and plans for a new school started to roll. Secretary-Treasurer of the board, and one of the main figures in setting up the new school is Hugh Margetts. The Oxford Municipal Council accepted the board’s recommendation, approved the money by-law for the building and, a few weeks ago, the $253,000 contract was awarded.
The first sods were turned by Reeve Whitney Black, board chairman Charles Harris, and Miss Winifred Lamrock of the Oxford Mills School. In addition, 12 pupils, representing each of the 12 township schools, each turned a shovelful.”
Since it opened, Oxford-on-Rideau School has experienced huge surges in enrollment which had many students housed in portables. Then came times when it was underused, as children grew up and the local population aged. Parents and concerned residents today see future growth which will require the school to be there when it’s needed.