A common perception of a school is it is much more than the bricks and mortars of the physical structure.
That certainly was a theme for about 100 people gathered at the farewell ceremony for Presentation Junior High — or the other names associated with the Mount Bernard Avenue school — Thursday evening.
There’s been many thanks given at the school created by the Presentation sisters ministry 49 years ago. More thanks can be given that schools are indeed more than about the building.
It’s beginning was the result of a fire. Presentation Central High School — an all girls complex — was erected from the ashes of St. Bernard’s Academy.
A few short years later, the school wasn’t big enough to house about 120 new Grade 7 girls, and they were housed at a temporary location adjacent to it. Some years after came “the wing,” and later portable buildings.
The vast history is probably lost upon many who have had dealings with the school in recent years. In 2007, students were moved to the Pepsi Centre after a major outbreak of mould. Air quality and structural concerns continued to plague the community. However, many of those gathered Thursday evening made no qualms that the values that made up Presentation persevered.
“Schools are about the people,” said Peter Burt, current vice principal and former principal.
One of those people is Denise Rumboldt, a former student and graduate (1974) of the all girls school. She was a student teacher in 1979 and returned as a substitute from 1982-1985. She began as a French immersion teacher in 1989, and retired just two years ago.
Rumboldt, the keynote speaker, said Presentation Central High School was a magnificent building for its time — complete with state-of-the-art facilities. She recalled the various school uniforms, including the gym attire, the girls would wear. She reminisced about the sports teams, school clubs, and bands as well as other extracurricular activities. At times, she had many of the women gathered in the gymnasium shaking their heads in unison as they remembered the way things were.
“When I talk about Presentation, I think about the people I encountered here and the things I did here,” she said. “... It’s about the people and it’s about the experiences.”
Sister Rosalie Carey attended the ceremony, representing the sisters of Presentation over the years. She said the students of the school were near and dear to the ministry.
“Those of (the sisters) who are alive and well still always hold in their hearts the love that they had for the Presentation girls,” she said. “Some of them when we meet them, they always ask how this one is and what did this one do. It is very indicative of where their hearts are.”
If the building means anything, it could very well hold a special meaning for the sisters.
“I’m sure that in the walls, in the rooms, and all over sometimes they will whisper the names of the sisters who taught here,” Carey said.
She wished everybody best of luck as they begin a new chapter in the school system as an amalgamated junior high next year with G.C. Rowe Junior High.