In September 1937, Shirley Washer held her mother's hand tightly as she trundled up the sidewalk to Florence Nightingale Public School. Washer was going into Grade 1. She wrote that at the time, she wished she could stay home with her doll, her elephant and her playhouse.
"The new world that opened up for me was scary," wrote Washer years later. "Mom had to pull me along and urge me along with words and encouragement."
When she arrived at Nightingale, it seemed at first both massive (doubtlessly a sentiment shared by many contemporary Nightingale Kindergarteners) and unfamiliar. But in the coming months, Washer says she discovered that Nightingale would become her new home.
"I learned how to communicate with others. I learned that each person is individual. I learned to love 'my brothers and sisters' at school despite the hardships of those times (hungry thirty's) and as it comes back to me now," she says. "Most of all- I learned my ABCs, not only the school type- but the ones that would stay in my mind for years to come."
Jenny Chin Petersen, Principal of Florence Nightingale, says Washer's experience provides readers with a glimpse of what the first weeks of school was like for a child growing up in the 1930s.
"So much changes over the decades, and yet so much also stays the same," says Chin Petersen.
To underline the importance of Nightingale's history to the community, Chin Petersen and her staff are excited to host a Centennial celebration on October 12 of this year.
First opened on January 11, 1912, Nightingale school originally consisted of eight classrooms with a main entrance on 12th Avenue. An existing farmhouse on the site had to be moved to make room. By 1913, eight additional rooms were added and later the school got a medical room and a dental clinic.
In 1954 a gymnasium-auditorium was officially opened on May 12th by Owen J. Thomas who was the Deputy Superintendent of Schools.
Over the years, it has offered such programs as Home Economics, Industrial Arts, Dental Clinic and a Manual Training Centre as well as English as Second Language classrooms and programs for Special Needs students. In 1990, Nightingale became a designated Inner City Project School. This meant that the students and families were offered additional staff and after school programs to support the socio-economic needs of the families in the area. It included a daily Breakfast Program as well as a Hot Lunch program.
In the new millennium, due to the needs of the changing neighbourhood, a Before and After School Daycare was opened in the basement of the facility. There has been a renewed interest in greening the area and a garden was planted in the back corner of the property. The school has also benefited from 21st century learning devices which include Smart boards in most classrooms, a growing use of IPads and of course the continued utilization of our Computer Lab and Library.
In 2010, a partnership with UBC Dentistry Program began and a re-furbished Dental Clinic is once again housed on the premises.
School staff are inviting anyone with a connection to Nightingale (be it as a student, parent, or staff member) to consider dropping by to check out what's new and what's stayed the same. The big event will be taking place Friday, October 12th from 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm. To register, click here.