Schooling in Waterdown, Part 3

The Waterdown School encounters problems

In 1910, George Allison, Secretary of the Waterdown School Board wrote the following description about the joint Public and High School in Sealey Park, Main Street South, for a report on the establishment of schools in Ontario:

This school is situated on a beautiful plot of ground on the south-east side of the village and from it, a fine view of the City of Hamilton, Burlington Bay and the Beach may be obtained. The grounds contain more than three acres, planted with a number of very fine shade trees.

Mr. Allison failed to mention that in 1910, there had been few improvements from the day the school opened; it was still using outdoor conveniences and the older girls and boys had to bring in wood and water and assist with keeping the school clean.

Entries in the Board’s Minute Book after 1900 record many minor problems that had begun to worry the school trustees. There were grave concerns about the state of the building and the conditions the students were being taught under.

The Waterdown Review published the following article by its editor on August 14, 1919, likely shocking many local residents:

…Believing that the people of East Flamborough and Waterdown should know the conditions of the Waterdown High School as seen by Inspector Levan upon his last visit, we quote the following from his report to the Board.

This school is situated on the upper floor of the Public School and is reached by means of a stairway that is a veritable firetrap. What was originally intended as a hall at the entrance has been converted into a cap and cloakroom. The classroom assigned to Form I is at the far end of the building and can be reached only by passing through one of the other classrooms. The floors of Forms I and II are worn to a wretched condition. There is no private room for the use of the teachers. The classrooms are lighted from two or three sides and are heated by wood stoves, one of which emits volumes of smoke into the room. There is no provision for ventilation except by means of windows, so the pupils are obliged to sit in this smoke-charged atmosphere all day long. The closets are ill-ventilated and unsuitable.

The conditions prevailing here are so bad that it is a matter of surprise that parents of children who must attend this school have tolerated them for so long. I am of the opinion that the Department should no longer countenance such a state of affairs and I recommend that no further grants be paid to this school while these conditions continue.

Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at

This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 7 July 2011.


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