Historic Sites of Manitoba: St. Avila School No. 1359 (633 Patricia Avenue, Winnipeg)
The St. Avila School District was established formally in February 1902, although it is believed to have been operating less formally as early as 1896. The first schoolhouse was located along Pembina Highway, then little more than a muddy trail. Previously, children in this area had had to walk along the Red River to a school at St. Norbert. Then a Mr. Craze from France opened his home for classes, with French the language of instruction, for a year until a schoolhouse was constructed. Some 20 students attended the first St. Avila School.
In 1906, the school was destroyed by a tornado that passed through the area but it was rebuilt the following year on a site immediately north of the earlier structure. The building was used continuously, with overflow classes in a nearby home, until 1951 when a new building was erected. Approved by local voters in October 1950, and built at a cost of about $17,000, the two-classroom school was situated on Patricia Avenue, at a site south of the Fort Garry campus of the University of Manitoba. The school was opened officially in a ceremony held on 17 February 1951 with provincial education minister W. C. Miller. The building featured grey asphalt exterior siding, built-in clothes and book closets, washrooms, and teachers’ rooms, and was heated by an oil-burning furnace. In 1954, the Fort Garry municipal council transferred the former St. Avila School site on Pembina Highway to the Parks Board for use as a community centre.
In January 1955, a new four-classroom school in Kings Park, on Mary Avenue, was opened by deputy education minister B. S. Bateman. Other dignitaries in attendance were Fort Garry mayor W. Scott Neal, MLA Ray Fennell, and Home and School Association representative Dr. W. J. Cherewick. Enrollment in the school was expected to be around 130 students, in grades 1 to 11. For a period in the 1950s and 1960s, there was a St. Avila West School operating at 929 Patricia Avenue (near the present site of Fort Richmond Collegiate, about N49.79296, W97.15309) in addition to St. Avila East School at 630 Avila Avenue.
In November 1964, the Fort Garry School Division called for tenders to construct a new 12-classroom elementary school building on Patricia Avenue at Leach Street. The new St. Avila East School (known today as St. Avila School, at 633 Patricia Avenue) was opened on 13 May 1966 in a ceremony officiated by school board chairman Dr. John D. Truscott. The former school building nearby, at the southwest corner of Silverstone Avenue and Leach Street, was demolished in late 1968, after an experimental, open-area classroom for up to 160 students was opened in the other building. Built at a cost of some $223,000, the addition also featured a music room and science room.
In October 1990, the School Division decided to convert the school to a French-immersion curriculum, forcing students in English programming to change schools. The plan was challenged by local parents, but the decision was ultimately upheld the following year, and the school became known as École Saint-Avila.
Among the teachers who worked at St. Avila School through the years were Mr. Craze (1890s), Josephine St-Mars Champagne (1896), Marthe Lord (1915-1916), Eva Ducharme (1916-1917), Albina “Anna” Baril (1917-1918), Donalda Champagne (1918-1919), C. Clara Campeau (1919-1921), Alice Vermette (1921-1923), Isabelle Champagne (1923-1925, 1927-1929), M. Jeanne Baril (1925-1927), Ida Alma Hague (1929), Antoinette Robert (1930-1932), Mrs. W. Ellison (1951), William Harras (1952-1954), Marion Ormrod (1953-1955), Margaretha Schwarg (1954-1955), H. E. Bastin (1954-1955), Mavis Arlene Ford Hyde (1955-1956), Ellen Muriel Scott (1955-1956), Ruth Elizabeth Schwarg (1955-1956), Helen Rosalie Van Dusen (1956-1957), M. Rihaluk (1956-1957), Ellen Muriel Scott (1956-1957), Myrtle Crawford (1957-1967), Ruth Shier (1957-1958), Karen Gloria Kozuk (1957-1958), Helen Mary Sisson (1958-1967), K. Casemore (1958-1959), Ruth H. Wiens (1959-1961), Leona Sutherland (1960-1961), Laura Godin (1960-1962), Diane Lorraine Scarr (1961-1962), Frances Obedzinski (1962-1963), Sharon Bridgeman (1963-1964), Betty Gross (1964-1966), Jeanne Olive McCallum (1964-1967), Margaret Frame (1964-1967), Elizabeth J. “Beth” Solnes (1965-1967), Bertha M. Walsh (1965-1966), Grace Kennington (1965-1966), Frances Eve Zanussi (1965-1966), Evelyn Oliver (1965-1966), Jeanne Bevis (1966-1967), Ilsa M. Krannfusz (1966-1967), Barbara Fairgrieve (1966-1967), Eileen Engblom (1967), Eleanor Francis Recknell (1966-1967), Judith Ressa Gates (1966-1967), Gloria Alice Cuff (1966-1967), Esther Katherine Dyck (1966-1967), Carol Diane Mainman (1966-1967), Raymond D. Biggs (1962-1964), Merle N. Morrison (1962-1965), Marie B. Payette (1963-1964), Barbara Hersak (1964-1965), and Wilma Harrison (1964-1965).
Photos & Coordinates
Half-yearly attendance reports, Archives of Manitoba.
Manitoba School Records Collection, St. Avila School, Archives of Manitoba.
“Tenders - School District of St. Avila No. 1359,” Winnipeg Tribune, 16 July 1947, page 18.
“St. Boniface, 9 suburbs go to polls tomorrow,” Winnipeg Free Press, 19 October 1950, page 3.
“Two money bylaws approved in suburbs,” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 October 1950, page 1.
“Slate-days of St. Avila School recalled as new building opened,” Winnipeg Free Press, 17 February 1951, page 3.
“Fort Garry plans to build 6 new classrooms by fall,” Winnipeg Free Press, 5 July 1954, page 1.
“$5 trailer park license approved by Fort Garry,” Winnipeg Free Press, 15 July 1954, page 1.
“Notice of Tender, School District of St. Avila (East) No. 1359,” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 August 1954, page 34.
“St. Avila area spends $50,000,” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 August 1954, page 3.
“Bateman opens new school,” Winnipeg Free Press, 11 January 1955, page 3.
Annual Reports of the Manitoba Department of Education, Manitoba Legislative Library.
“Some Greater Winnipeg schools to be crowded,” Winnipeg Free Press, 24 August 1957, page 3.
“Fort Garry School Division No. 5,” Winnipeg Free Press, 6 October 1960, page 27.
“Tenders - St. Avila East School,” Winnipeg Free Press, 13 November 1964, page 44.
“Truscott will open St. Avila E. School,” Winnipeg Free Press, 6 May 1966, page 28.
“Lyon to attend school event,” Winnipeg Free Press, 19 November 1968, page 3.
“St. Avila praised by Lyon,” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 November 1968, page 6.
“The Rural Municipality of Fort Garry [...],” Winnipeg Free Press, 3 September 1968, page 38.
One Hundred Years in the History of the Rural Schools of Manitoba: Their Formation, Reorganization and Dissolution (1871-1971) by Mary B. Perfect, MEd thesis, University of Manitoba, April 1978.
“Johnny isn’t a bad boy any more, he’s busy in an open-area classroom,” Winnipeg Free Press, 25 January 1969, page 21.
“Injunction sought,” Winnipeg Free Press Weekly South Edition, 24 February 1991, page 3.
“Bid to halt immersion plans dismissed,” Winnipeg Free Press, 11 May 1991, page 3.
Henderson’s Winnipeg Directories, Peel’s Prairie Provinces, University of Alberta Libraries.
We thank Chantal Proulx for providing additional information used here.
Page revised: 21 August 2020