By Susan Bryk
In 1902, a group of Atikokan ratepayers formed the Atikokan School Section No. 1. The jail was the only available building to use as a school. Soon the jail was too small to house the students so a one-room schoolhouse was built by Tom Rawn. Miss Brown was the first teacher hired for Atikokan in 1902.
In 1922, a larger modern brick building, consisting of two classrooms and a full basement, was constructed on Clark Street by John East Co. of Fort Frances. Miss Edith Johnson was hired as teacher. Alice (Wilkins) Rooney came to teach in 1926. In 1944, the basement was converted to two classrooms. In 1945, grades seven to nine were being held in the Ukrainian Hall on Mackenzie West and in 1947, grade five and six were held there. By 1948, the Hall was being used as a permanent classroom.
By 1948, with the opening of Steep Rock Iron Mines, the resulting population explosion and the need to provide for a Continuation School, it was necessary to build a new school. Marks St, School was built (gymnasium and four classrooms) in 1950, and the original school on Clark Street was designated as a Continuation School. In 1951, six classrooms were added to Marks St. School by Spence Construction. In 1952, Rawn Road School (ten classrooms) was built by Stead & Lindstrom and four classrooms were added to Clark St. School by Claydon Co. Ltd.
From 1952 to 1954, 12 children from the Mando Camp at Finlayson were bused to attend school in Atikokan. Emil Amorde transported the children from the Mando Camp to the Steep Rock Iron Mine site and the Top Hat Bus Lines picked them up and transported them to Atikokan.
In 1954, Hemlock Ave. School (four classrooms) was built by Claydon Co. Ltd. and G.M. McLeod Construction added another two classrooms in 1955 and another four classrooms in 1956. Also in 1956, Saturn Ave. School (ten classrooms) and the Atikokan High School, (12 classrooms) were built by Claydon Co. Ltd. Once the new High School opened in 1957, Clark Street School was returned to the Public School Board. Gateway Building & Supply Limited of Fort William added four classrooms to the High School in 1959; in 1960 they built the vocational wing and in 1970, the south wing. The final addition to the high school was the new gymnasium (Grayson Hall) and music room which were built by Gateway in 1984.
In 1967, a gymnasium was added to the Saturn Ave. School by Gateway Development of Fort William. Junior Kindergarten was added to the school system in 1974. In 1975, the board bought the Calvary Lutheran Church, renamed it Hillcrest School, and used it to house kindergarten to grade one, from 1975-1979. In 1961, the Marks Street and Rawn Road Schools were used to teach grades one to six. Grade seven and eight students were taught at Clark Street School. In 1962, the grade eight class from Hemlock Avenue School was also moved to Clark Street, and kindergarten was added into the system. Then in 1963, all grade seven and eight classes in Atikokan (other than the Separate School classes) were moved to Marks Street School and the kindergarten to grade six classes from Marks were moved to Clark.
Marks stopped being grades seven and eight only in 1974 and the students were dispersed back to the other schools. In 1979, Clark Street School (four classes) and Hillcrest (two classes) were closed. All grade seven and eight classes were moved back to Marks Street, and all junior kindergarten classes were at Saturn School. Only the School Board office and the maintenance workers' room remained at Clark Street. Things remained this way until 1984, when the grade seven and eight classes were moved to a wing of the Atikokan High School (they maintained the name Marks Street and had their own teachers and principal separate from the High School) and Marks Street School was first leased and then sold to the Township of Atikokan. In 1986, "Marks Street" students and teachers were integrated into the High School system, no longer having their own principal or their own name. Rawn Road School was closed in June, 1987.
In the school year 2000-2001 Ontario changed their curriculum and OAC (Ontario Academic Credits -- grade 13) was eliminated.
As enrolment declined, the elementary schools were closed until in 1998 the only school still open was Saturn Ave. School. The existing school was completely renovated in 1998 with a large new wing added to offer an up-to-date gymnasium and more classrooms and reopened under the new name of North Star School. This construction was done by Gateway Contractors of Thunder Bay. In 2006, construction began on the "Outers" building at the High School.
Prior to 1945, the system was known as Atikokan School Section #1 of Townships of Schwenger & Freeborn. In 1945, when the Improvement District of Atikokan was incorporated, the Board of Trustees for the Improvement District also became responsible for the overseeing of the School Section No. 1. When Atikokan was incorporated as the Corporation of the Township of Atikokan in 1954, the responsibility for the school system was separated from the duties of the Reeve and Councillors, and came under the jurisdiction of Trustees elected specifically to run the education system.
The school boundaries were the same as that of the Township, 18 miles (North to South) by 12 miles (East to West), which took in the Ontario and Minnesota Pulp and Paper Co. Ltd. Campsite at Finlayson. In 1958, the Township was divided into two school areas and a new school was built in section two (the Finlayson area), which was overseen by a separate board consisting of O & M employees.
In 1964, the Township Council voted to change the Township boundaries from 18 miles (North to South) to 12 miles (North to South) by 12 miles (East to West), giving up an area of six miles (North to South) by 12 miles (East to West) on the North end of the original township (Finlayson area) in order to alleviate problems that were caused with the cost of busing the children from that area into Atikokan.
The Provinical Government of the day had changed the manner in which the Ontario & Minnesota Timber Lands were assessed, lowering the tax dollars that the Township of Atikokan were receiving from O & M, making it a losing proposition for the Atikokan School Board to bus the children into Atikokan. By changing the boundaries, the Finlayson area was able to create their own education system and the Atikokan Board no longer needed to provide busing.
In 1969, the Elementary and Secondary School Boards of Education were amalgamated to form the Atikokan Board of Education. The new school board area included Atikokan, Flanders, Sapawe and Niobe Lake School Districts.
In December, 1997 the Atikokan Board of Education was dissolved by the Province of Ontario and the Atikokan school system was amalgamated under the Rainy River District School Board.
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