When they are told some basic facts about the history of Métis Beach School, students of the school seem fascinated. Some are surprised by how old it is, others simply by its complex history. All agree, that this school has shaped the community as much as the community has shaped it.
The structures that were to become the first school boards in Québec were established in 1830 and the first formal version of what was to become Métis Beach School opened in 1832. By comparison, McGill University was founded in 1821 but it only started offering classes in 1830. Which means that Métis Beach School has been teaching students for only two years fewer than the oldest university in Quebec.
The first location for the school was in what is now Grand-Métis, from 1829 to 1834. It was opened by the school commissioners, also known as the founders of the school. The founders were William Turriff, Hugh Macnider, Peter Francis Leggatt, Dougald Smith and Donald Macgoughan. The reason why the school was in Grand-Métis is because the population centre of Metis was actually there at that time.
Looking through the archives of Metis, education seems to have been as important to the population as religion: “I preached in the schoolhouse on Sabbath day to nearly one hundred, the schoolhouse was filled,” said Reverend Clougston, a preacher for the town. There was no church at the time because residents chose to construct a schoolhouse before they built any churches.
The school moved many times before it was established in its current location. The school moved to accommodate the growing student population and also not to inconvenience them with transport.
From around 1870 to 1900, the school was on Station Road. Then, from 1900 to 1928 the school, known as “the Little Green School House” was recorded to have existed somewhere to the west of where the school is today. Our school on Beach Road only opened in around 1930, but its construction started at the end of 1928.
For a long time, the school only taught classes up to Secondary 3 but this ended in 1974. All the high school grades were permitted to be taught in that year. Catherine Lapierre, the first graduate of Metis Beach School graduated in the summer of 1976.
Jennifer Smith, who attended this school from 1987 to 1998, she was taught in the original part of the school until Secondary 3. “That was a long time ago,” she said, “Everything has changed, from the desks, the writing instruments, the school, the teachers and my favorite basketball team. Now there are “Smart Boards”, new desks, new and specialized teachers. When I was young, in Secondary 1-2 like the kids writing this article, my teachers were Mr. Grant, Mr. Morris, Miss. Soucy and Miss. Dodson.”
In 1997 the extension on the front of the school was opened because the classes were growing. The same year, the Eastern Quebec Regional School Board changed its name to Eastern Shores School Board (ESSB). There are eighteen schools in ESSB. The average number of students is 120 per school, so we are getting there with 80 students. Also, we are one of the schools with the fastest-growing student population in the school board.
It wasn’t always easy to keep such a small school going. For example, the school board planned to move the high school students to New Carlisle (300 kilometers away from Métis-sur-Mer) in 1998-1999 but the parents contested and won that argument. The school stayed, intact.
This may be a small school, but the students within are no different from those at any other school. They do have a few advantages here; for example, most students know at least the first name of almost every other student and teacher in the school. “We might be a lot of people for the size of the school, but I like it anyway,” says Audrey Bernier, high school student. With its impressive history, this school has a life of its own. Many times this school has been passed by unnoticed, but it has lasted a long time and will last even longer.