Glenwood – ‘a hidden gem’ in Maple Ridge

Amalgamation revitalizes 50-year-old Glenwood Elementary School in Maple Ridge

Former Glenwood students Ann Morcom and Joanna Soolaman

Former Glenwood students Ann Morcom and Joanna Soolaman

There’s very little about Glenwood elementary that resembles the school that opened on the site 50 years ago. In September 1961, the school had just three classrooms, with split classes covering Grades 1 to 6 and fewer than a hundred students.

Glenwood soon outgrew those three humble rooms.

More were added, as was a gym, then a library.

In all, the school has seen close a half dozen major renovations in the past half century, resulting in a school with more than triple its original capacity.

However, what has remained the same, says principal Jovo Bikic, is the sense of community within the school.

“It’s really like a big family here,” he says. “You talk to anyone who has gone here, and they’ll tell you that.”

Ann Morcom was one of the original students at Glenwood, and has nothing but fond memories of her time there. A Grade 6 student in 1961, Morcom’s teacher that year was principal Larry Davies.

One day, Davies and the teachers at the school challenged the students to a baseball game. To make things interesting and give the kids a fighting chance, Davies dressed up as Snow White, while the teachers dressed as the seven dwarfs.

“He had a lot of spirit and really helped to make it a great school,” says Morcom. “Glenwood was lucky to have him.”

Glenwood was originally built to deal with overcrowding at nearby Mt. Crescent and Fairview elementary schools.

Two years ago, Glenwood took in 100 students from Mt. Crescent after declining enrollment and budget constraints forced the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District to close that school.

“It’s really rejuvenated and energized the school,” Bikic says of the amalgamation.

After years of declining enrollment and empty classes, Glenwood was given a second life.

“Kindergarten enrollment is the highest it has been in 10 years,” he says.

The school now houses a StrongStart early education centre, a preschool, and a daycare.

With children as young as newborns taking part in the school’s StrongStart program, the school offers a 0 to age 13 experience, says Bikic.

“It’s a hidden gem.”

Hidden may be an understatement.

The school is tucked  behind subdivisions and townhomes near Dewdney Trunk Road and 216th Street without any frontage. If you didn’t know it was there, you might never find it.

“People don’t even realize we’re here,” says Bikic.

However, in 1961, the school was surrounded by empty lots and orchards, according Morcom.

“It’s totally different now,” she says. “But it’s still a great little school.”

To celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary, students at Glenwood elementary  have documented each decade of the school’s existence in colourful displays adorning the school’s hallways.

The school is also holding a 50th anniversary celebration on Tuesday, May 29, from 5 to 8 p.m. The public is welcome to attend the event.

Joanna Soolaman attended Glenwood from 1990 to 1997 and is helping to organize the festivities next week.

“I was more than happy to volunteer my time,” she says. “[Glenwood] has been a part of so many peoples lives in the community. It’s where I met some of my best friends, learned to play the guitar, and the amazing teachers and programs there greatly influenced my life and who I am today.”

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