Looking Back


School is Closed - Another Epidemic ...

The current outbreak of the corona virus and consequent closure of public facilities seems almost surreal. But epidemics and their resultant sequestering are not uncommon.


The collection of local school registers at the Onoway Museum shows many instances when schools were closed for health reasons. The registers of Beaupré School (the first school in this area) go back to 1909 and are a fascinating source of information. Teachers were required to keep a daily tally of student attendance as well as information about the students. Most teachers were meticulous about recording presence/absence. If the school was not open, they usually gave the reason. Some teachers added in notes. e.g. in February 1935, Mrs. Horne recorded that 3 students were away with scabies and one had his tonsils out.


April 1950
Stolee 1941

March 1915 – School was closed March 29 –
April 12 because of "Epidemic & Measles"
(28 students in grades I - VIII

April 1950 – An outbreak of scarlet fever
meant that Easter break came early.

The 11 students in Mr. Stolee's grade 8 – 10 class missed 14 days because of poliomyelitis in 1941.

There were numerous occasions when the schools were closed because of "epidemics". The first one showing in the registers was in 1915. Then in1918 Beaupré School was closed for two weeks in September but there is no reason given for this blank space in the register (probably the Spanish flu). In 1920, school was closed September 9 – 24 and again December 3 – 10 because of "Epidemic". (Mrs. Fuller had a class of 45 students, age 6 to 15 in grades I to VII that year.) In 1927, an "Epidemic of Paralysis" led to closure September 21 – 30. In 1929 school was closed March 5 – 15 because of "Scarlet Fever Epidemic" (and for the same reason January 24 – February 9, 1942 and April 3 – 6, 1950).


The school was closed for fumigation, in February 1929 but then March 5 – 15, the school closed again because of scarlet fever. (Mrs. Feeney had 50 students in grades I – III.)


Weather was another reason schools were closed: "Vans didn't run as roads too icy" (December 12, 1951); "School opened one week late because of poor roads, impassable roads" (September 1954); "Snow Storm Roads Blocked" (December 13, 1955).


Other closures were for the annual teachers convention in fall, public holidays (Arbor Day, Empire Day, Victoria Day, Armistice Day, etc.) and special events (mostly relating to the royal family): Coronation (1911 and 1953), Royal Visit, King's Silver Jubilee, King's Birthday, King's Funeral, Princess Elizabeth Wedding, King George's Funeral, Queen's Birthday. Other major events were Election Day (1913, 1920 and 1949) and V-E Victory Day (May 8, 1945). And on it goes.


It appears that the current epidemic will far outlast the previous ones and may rank with the Black Death of the Middle Ages.


March 1955

The most recent epidemic - March 1955 – J. Shinkarek noted that school
was closed by the nurse because of flu (or maybe measles and flu)


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Last updated: March 24, 2020