There used to be the white school, then the red school, and then came Weldon.
The schools that have graced the community of Bienfait are remembered fondly by pioneers and current residents alike, but none more so than Weldon School, especially in its current reincarnation as an updated, refurbished facility of local learning. It was a school that received a huge facelift just five years ago, and is wearing its age very well.
Weldon School had the distinction of celebrating its 50th anniversary last Friday evening with a program of activities planned and delivered by the local School Community Council.
Anita Brokenshire, a Weldon SCC member, said the activities included skating in the gymnasium on installed synthetic ice that was brought in the for occasion, along with some face painting, balloon sculpturing, yearbook reviews, trophies that represented all types of athletic and academic achievements garnered by the school and its students over the years, and a community meal served in the common area.
Following the closure of the pioneer schools by the early 1960s, Weldon School began to build on its history starting with its opening in 1961. For the first eight years, the school catered to Grades 7 through 12 and by 1969, with the opening of the Estevan Comprehensive School, Weldon became a senior type of elementary facility, providing classes for students from Grades 4 to 9. That lasted until 1980 when it became a full-fledged kindergarten to Grade 9 school. The building was reconfigured again in 2007 with the elimination of Grade 9 classes, making Weldon what it is today, a school for children in kindergarten to Grade 8 with over 180 of them currently enrolled in various classes and activities.
Black Diamond School served the rural community near Bienfait for several years, until its full closure in 1964 with students transferring to Bienfait.
By 1967, it was Roche Percee School's turn to close the doors and again, the students there came to Bienfait to resume their educational pursuits.
There were no further school closures of note until 2003 when Minto School in North Portal was closed with their Grade 7 to 9 students being registered in Weldon and in 2008, when Frobisher School closed, most of their students transferred to Weldon. Some Frobisher students in Grades 7 and 8 began attending Weldon as early as 1993, the history books recall.
So Weldon has a rich history of accepting students from nearby communities and making them welcome within their learning environment.
Over the 50 years, there have been just seven principals at Weldon with the first being A.E. (Ed) Gough who served in that capacity from the school's beginning in 1961 through to his retirement in 1972. He was followed by Tom Gamble from 1972 to 1975 and then there was Joe Knippshild who handled the chores from 1975 until 1983 when Kay Wilson took over for one year before the arrival of Gary St. Onge who captained the ship from in 1984 until 1999. After St. Onge, Adrian Schindel directed the traffic until his retirement in 2008 and it was at that time that current principal Jane Moriarity was appointed to the position which she continues to hold to this day.
"It's just my first year on the SCC, but this is a pretty exciting and lively school," said Brokenshire as she glanced around the gymnasium viewing all the activities that were going on to mark the special occasion.