Lord Strathcona Elementary School

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Lord Strathcona Elementary School
Lord Strathcona Community Elementary School (commonly known as Strathcona Elementary or informally Strath Elementary) is the oldest school in Vancouver, British Columbia. It was founded in 1891 and is in the secondary school catchment area for Britannia Secondary School. It is located in the Strathcona neighbourhood and has a culturally diverse student body. There is also a "Gifted Education Challenge Centre" on-site. The school is attached to a community centre and the school library doubles as a branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

Prior to the 1950s, the neighbourhood served by Lord Strathcona was called the East End. The new name was probably chosen because of the school. It is the oldest residential neighbourhood in Vancouver, and since its inception has been predominantly working class in its composition, although the earliest business elite also lived there. Lord Strathcona Elementary School is descended from the first two schools in Vancouver: the Hastings Mill School and the Oppenheimer Street School. The Hastings Mill School opened in 1873 but was demolished in 1886 because it was located on the CPR right-of-way. It was replaced by the Oppenheimer School at 522 Oppenheimer Street (now East Cordova) in 1887, but that building was soon too small for the ballooning population. The new school, known as the East End School before 1900, was situated at the highest elevation point in the neighbourhood. The East End School was housed in the first building on the Strathcona site, which was completed in 1891. Another building was added in 1897, the Junior Building, and is still used today. A north wing was added in 1915, and in 1921, the bricks from the original (now demolished) 1891 structure were used to build the current Primary Building. The Senior Building on Jackson Street was erected in 1913 and the gymnasium in 1930. The adjacent Strathcona Community Centre opened in 1972 and contains a branch of the Vancouver Public Library that doubles as the school library. The Community Centre also provides several services for Strathcona children, such as after school care and other programs. Following the arrival of the CPR in Vancouver, the wealthy elite (mostly English, Scottish, and Irish) gravitated west to the new upscale developments of the West End, and later, Shaughnessy. This process was complete by the Great War, after which the East End was inhabited mostly by successive waves of immigrants, including: Japanese, Chinese, Norwegians, Swedish, Finnish, Jewish, African-Americans, Central Americans, Italians, French, Germans, Spanish, Portuguese, Belgians, Russians, Polish, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Croatians, Romanians, Czech, Slovak, Turkish, Albanians, and Serbians. The major cultural groups at Strathcona were the Chinese, Japanese, Italian, and Jewish. The latest wave of immigrants was the Vietnamese in the 1970s. During the interwar period, the school gained the nickname "The League of Nations" because of the diversity of ethnic groups represented in the student population. Teachers were faced with the exceptional challenge of teaching the non-English speaking children and youth. The immigrant experience was the unifying factor for these students, but even then, racial and ethnic tensions played out at Strathcona that mirrored divisions in Vancouver's adult population. The city had become much more racially and ethnically segregated over time, and after the wealthier Anglo-Celtic population left the East End, the pattern of economic marginalization that still persists today set in. In the Great Depression, economic disparities were even more pronounced. During that decade, Strathcona had a bathtub in the basement of the Senior Building so that teachers could bathe children coming from homes with no hot water. Distinctive characteristics of the school are its relationship with the adjoining Strathcona Community Centre and the ethnic diversity of the student body. The segregated organization of Vancouver however did not mean that these primarily working class children were entirely separated from the middle class and Anglo-Celts who now lived in other areas. The teachers at Strathcona generally did not come from same socio-economic background as the students, for example, and the men who policed the youth in the area were primarily Scottish, and later, English and Irish as well. On one occasion in 1935, striking longshoremen chased a group of strikebreakers through the halls of Strathcona, showing again how developments and conflicts unfolding in Vancouver often found an expression in the school. The patterns established in the early decades of the school are still largely evident today, but there are also noteworthy differences. The student population is still extremely culturally diverse, but within that mix is a larger range of economic backgrounds, for example. While the Downtown Eastside remains the poorest neighbourhood in Vancouver, residential development in surrounding areas such as Gastown and in pockets within the Downtown Eastside such as the area around the intersection of Keefer and Abbott Streets, have brought more middle class immigrants and non-immigrants to the area. Other ethnic groups are no longer concentrated in the area, such as the Italian and Jewish communities that have dispersed throughout the city or concentrated in other areas such as Little Italy. Two groups were involuntarily displaced from the Strathcona area, and are therefore no longer represented in the same proportion as before: the Black community after the destruction of Hogan's Alley, and the Japanese after their internment during World War II. A "Charter of Respect" was adopted as part of a campaign to discourage bullying and foster a safe learning environment.

Students at Lord Strathcona are offered instruction in the standard curriculum prescribed by the provincial Ministry of Education. The School also houses various "District Programs" for gifted, behaviour-disordered, and highly abled students. Lord Strathcona is part of the Inner City School Program, a program that was created to meet the needs of learners and families in the Downtown Eastside. Some positive features of being a member of the Inner City School are: All Day Kindergarten for qualified students, a lunch program, a 1/2 day Jr. Kindergarten class.

Lord Strathcona is unique in having community centre facilities within the complex. The Strathcona Community Centre boasts a gym, a fitness center. This relationship allows them to provide After-School Care Programs as well as a Breakfast Program in the morning. Strathcona also has a library within the community centre that serves as the school library and is also as a branch of the Vancouver Public Library. It is one of, if not the, largest elementary school library in the school district. Students can access the library's resources through their student library card as well as a Vancouver Public Library card.

Lord Strathcona has teams for the following sports:

Lord Strathcona also has a private school hockey league which is played in the gym called the Strathcona Hockey League (SHL). The SHL has been in Lord Strathcona for more than 5 years now and has been a great success for being a good athletic activity for young students, grades 4-7.

  • Daphne Marlatt and Carole Itter, eds., Opening Doors: Vancouver's East End, Sound Heritage series, Vol. VIII, nos. 1-2. Victoria, BC: Aural History Program, 1979.
  • Harold Kalman, Exploring Vancouver: Ten Tours of the City and its Buildings, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1974.
  • Stanley D. McLarty, The Story of Strathcona School. Vancouver: Vancouver School Board, 1961.
  • Lord Strathcona Elementary School website

  • Basketball
  • Cross Country
  • Flag Football
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Track and Field
  • Volleyball


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