First steps in centralization were implemented in the fall of 1938 in the Del Bonita area. High school classes were taught at Lens School. Mr. Gene Plunet was hired as a van driver to transport high school children from Rinard and Del Bonita schools to Lens, and elementary students from Lens district to Rinard school.
That fall the Lens school burned down following a farewell party for Bert Campbell. An oil well cook shack was moved to the school yard and high school classes taught by John Gordon completed their year in it.
By the fall of 1939 the Divisional Board of St. Mary's River School Division had made arrangements to centralize the schools at the present site of Del Bonita School. Land was purchased from Harry Orcutt. One new classroom was built, and the Del Bonita and Shanks Lake buildings and the barn from Lens, were moved to the site. The sum of $745.00 was paid for moving these two school houses and placing them on cement foundations. The barn was moved by local people.
Three teachers, Mr. John Gordon, principal, Miss Edna McLaren, and Miss Annie Walker were the teaching staff, and Delbert Smith was the caretaker. Mr. Gordon left early in the year to join the armored tank division of the Canadian Army and Mr. Alec Dederer took his place as principal of the Centralized school called Del Bonita in Lens No. 3328.
A few years later the name was shortened to Lens School No. 3328. School districts included in the centralization were Hillmer, Shanks Lake, De] Bonita, Lens, and Rinard. Mr. Herman Hilimer was bus driver for the Shanks Lake- Hillmer area, Mr. Osmond Allen for Del Bonita, and Mr. Gene Plunet for Rinard and Lens. Roads weren't gravelled and bus drivers had many hardships both winter and summer.
It was a mammoth task to bring children from five districts together, and to foster school spirit among students who had competed against each other in ball games, track meets and school fairs. Mr. Dederer, Miss Walker, and Miss McLaren were equal to the challenge. They helped the children compose a school song, and held Friday afternoon assemblies and sing songs. They supervised the students with a Students' Union, a Junior Red Cross, and a school paper. They put on a spectacular Christmas concert which included every student in the school. When spring came they coached the children for the Track and Field meet, and on May 20, 1940 the school brought home the pennant for the most points in the inter-school track and field meet for subdivision 3, held at Taylorville.
In the fall of 1940 another new room and a basement had been added to the new structure, and all three class rooms were under one roof - with high school occupying the basement room. The old Shanks Lake School was used as a teachei-age for Mr. and Mrs. Dederer. During 1940 a well was drilled in the school yard.
In 1941 Twin River school district joined the centralization and the staff was increased to four. The old Del Bonita School was again pressed into service to house the primary grades, one, two, and three. Grades four, five and six; and seven, eight and nine occupied the main rooms of the new building, while high school classes for grades ten, eleven and twelve were held in the basement room. The teachers boarded with families in the community.
Van drivers were Arvel Dustin, Twin River-Del Bonita; Eugene Plunet for Rinard-Lens and Herman Hilimer for Shanks Lake-Twin River areas.
The primary room was heated with a coal heater enclosed in a jacket. The two main class rooms were heated with a furnace, and the high school room had a separate heater complete with jacket to increase circulation of warmed air. Water for each room was stored in a covered earthenware crock with a push button tap at the bottom. Each child provided his own drinking cup. Outdoor toilets with high board enclosures were some distance from the schools. The school buildings weren't locked, and had no artificial lighting. Library books included a few new ones, plus the books that had come from the former one-roomed schools. Books and supplies for each class room were kept in a cupboard in the room.
Playground equipment had been built by the local black- smiths, Loyal and Linden Jensen. This included teeter- totters, swings, and giant strides. Softball and table tennis were other games the children enjoyed.
July 26, 1945 the following lands were added: Those parts of Sections 5 and 6 lying north of the North branch of the Milk River and Section 7, in Township 2, Range 21; Sections 11-14, those parts of Sections I and 2 lying north of the north branch of the Milk River, in Township 2, Range 22; all West of the Fourth Meridian.
October 26, 1945 the following lands were added: That part of Section 31 lying north of the north branch of the Milk River; that part of Section 36 lying north of the north branch of the Milk River in Township 1, Range 22; all West of the Fourth Meridian.
In 1947-48 construction was begun to enlarge the school to four classrooms and a chemistry lab all on one floor. A large basement gymnasium was constructed under the addition, and the former basement high school room was used as a kitchen for community functions. At one time it even served as living quarters for two young teachers. By 1950 with laying of hardwood floor, the gymnasium was completed.
November 16, 1948 the sale of the old one roomed school was given approval. This was the former Shanks Lake school building.
On April 22, 1950 approval was given for sale of the other one roomed school at Lens. This was the Del Bonita one- roomed school building which had been moved to the site in 1939.
During the mid 40's a wind charger and later a power plant were installed in the school. Calgary Power was hooked on in 1954.
The teaching staff was increased to five in 1955 and the old basement classroom was again utilized. Six teachers were needed in 1956 so the lab was converted to a classroom. 1957 saw the addition of a music teacher to the staff, so a music and typing room was improvised in the basement gymnasium. In 1958 grades 9,10,11 classes were vanned to Magrath on Friday mornings for General Shop and Home Economics instruction.
From about 1954 on, the local and divisional school boards studied and worked on the proposal for a new school to more adequately meet the needs of the area. Plans were drawn up and approved by the Department of Education. In 1960 the modern new building with six classrooms and a Science and Chemistry lab, plus a standard size gymnasium became a reality. The community helped the school board to provide the gymnasium facility.
March 28, 1960 the following lands were transferred from the Lens School District to the Del Bonita School District: North-west quarter of Section 17, North-east quarter of Section 18, south-east quarter of Section 19, south-west quarter of Section 20, in Township 1, Range 21; West of the Fourth Meridian.
April 6, 1960 the following lands were transferred to the Del Bonita School District from the Lens School District; south- east quarter of Section 18, in Township 1, Range 21; West of the Fourth Meridian. The new school constructed in 1960 was located on this quarter of land and the name became Del Bonita School No. 3275. The building was formally opened with a special program on November 8, 1960. Six teachers provided instruction from grades one through twelve, and a part time teacher instructed classes in music from grade three through high school. Four large school vans driven by Bob Manzke, Carl Jorgensen, Albert Hilimer and Louis Secretan plus a feeder bus driven by Dan Kolasko transported students to school.
In May 1961 approval was given for the old Del Bonita School to be sold. Kolasko Brothers bought and dismantled it.
It wasn't long till seven full time teachers were required. The laboratory and science room became the grade twelve classroom in 1962. Seven full time teachers continued on the staff till June of 1968 when the decision was made to close the high school and van the students to Magrath.
1968-69 the school accommodated grades one through nine with five teachers on staff. In 1970 the staff was reduced to four and in 1973 to three teachers. In 1972 Janet Henry was hired as secretary and librarian, and was succeeded during 1975-76 by Waltraud Jensen. In December 1972 Cecilia Patterson came on staff as a teacher's aid.
Del Bonita School has participated in intramural as well as inter-school sports activities, basketball, volleyball, softball, badminton, floor hockey, and table tennis have all been enjoyed by students.
The annual school Christmas concert has been continued ever since centralization in 1939. Excellent programs have been arranged, followed by distribution of treats by Santa Claus.
The school is a vital part of the community. The gymnasium and kitchen are available for social functions and sports activities. School staffs have been co-operative and helpful in the community.
When the schools were centralized a representative from each former school district was appointed to a local school board. Through the years the Del Bonita local school board has been very helpful to the superintendent and the divisional board. The members have taken their responsibilities seriously, and have been an especially effective and interested local board. They have made worthwhile recommendations to the divisional board, and have been an effective means of keeping the superintendent in touch with the community. Their diligent efforts are much appreciated by local and divisional people.
Through the years many teachers have been involved in education of students of Del Bonita centralized school. John Gordon was the first principal in 1939 but left for the armed service and was followed by Alec Dederer who stayed for two years. Hugh A. Ferguson was principal from 1941-1944, H. L. West, 1944-1952; David Cooper, 1952-53; Jasper E Blumel, 1953-55; Leon Zemp, 1955-57; H. L. West, 1957-68; David Cooper, 1968-69; George Taylor, 1969-71; Ken Chipman, 1971-72; Henry Komelson, part of 1972, followed by Bob Campbell 1972-75, Ken Williams, 1975-76; Lloyd Evers 1976 to the present. Other teachers have been Annie Walker (Jensen), Edna McLaren, Laprile Low, Alex Semaka, Helen Bews (Newton), Elma Litchfield, Mrs. Gladys Eddy, Mrs. Sadie Woods, Olga Odynsky, Mae Poulson, Tillie Zoutiak, Joe Quintillio, Mrs. Mabel Weiss, Nick Kowalchuk, Anita Bullock, Pauline Knight, Nick Ratsoy, Vera Law, Gwen Broadhead, Bryant L. Stringam, Mrs. Vonza Mae Reeder, Mrs. E. May Orr, Weltha Fullmer, Mrs. Alma J. Evanson, Emma Orosz, Mrs. Magdalen Bleeks, David Cooper, Frances Willmott, Geraldine Rubisch, Jane Dedio, Mrs. Lois Stapleton, Mrs. Maurine Stanford, Beverly Caruthers, Mrs. Ella Poile, Douglas Poile, Robert Secretan, Mrs. Alice Moffat, Mrs. Nada Pilling, Harvey Mathers, Carolyn Gibb, Ron Broadhead, Russell French, Carol Beswick, Priscilla Blackmore, Mrs. Wilma Campbell, Mrs. Fay Bort, Mrs. Selma Hadfield, Mrs. Donna Pitcher, Kent Pitcher, Mrs. Ann Donovan, Mark Draper, Mrs. Mary Baldwin, Elaine Denkers, Richard Meeks, Mrs. Ruth Bennett, Mrs. Rose Edgmond, Larry Livingstone, Elaine Swenson, and Agnes Monroe.
Secretary-librarians have been Mrs. Janet Henry and Mrs. Waltraud Jensen. Teachers aid, Mrs. Cecilia Patterson.
Caretakers have been Delbert Smith, H. L. West, Grace West, Earl Jensen, Carl Jorgensen, Darel and Marlene Smathers.
Bus drivers contracts for Twin River-Del Bonita have been Oz Allen, Arvel Dustin, C. L. Secretan, L. J. Secretan, Edgar Henry; for Rinard-Lens, Eugene Plunet, Michael Barnett, Robert Manzke. Bob Manzke's bus has been driven by George Williams, Tom Helgeson, Joe Gruninger, Darel Smathers and Powell Foggin; northwest Lens, Earl Jensen, Carl J orgensen, Darel Smathers; Shanks Lake-Hillmer, Herman Hillmer, Hubert West, Dean Weiss, Robert Manzke and Albert Hillmer.
Divisional trustees for subdivision Number 3 have been: Fred Luth, Lester Lee, Jim Godlonton, Les Campbell, and Glen Powlesiand.
School Superintendents have been A. R. Gibson, Thomas Hamilton, A. B. Evanson, E. W. Hinman, C. G. Merkley and Grant Matkin. William Blackmore and Dr. Durfey have been Assistant Superintendents.
In 1939-40 van drivers Gene Plunet and Herman Hillier were each paid $5.00 a day and Osmond Allen $3.00 a day. This was increased by $1.00 per day in 1940-41. In 1939 the basic teacher's salary was $850.00 per year.
When Jefferson school closed in 1963 some of the students from that district, and all those from Whiskey Gap attended Del Bonita school for a few years.
It is a tribute to people of the area that from homestead days to the present time ratepayers, school board members and superintendents have been interested in providing the best possible educational facilities for the community. Their efforts and those of teachers who served the area have been very much appreciated. It is gratifying that students from Del Bonita School have gone on to be successful in many professions and businesses.
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