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‘Remarkable’: Bradford school celebrates a century of history

'From their tentative first steps of entering kindergarten to their confident steps of graduation, this school has been here for thousands of young minds,' Bradford trustee says

While all subjects are important, one Bradford school has a particular connection to history.

Students, teachers, family members and local dignitaries were all on hand to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fred C. Cook Public School at 20 Fletcher St., on Tuesday afternoon, May 7.

Students and guests were welcomed by various displays in the main hallway, showcasing artwork by current students, historical photos of the school and past graduating classes, plus a tribute to the school’s namesake, the late Frederick C. Cook himself (1901-1975) — a well-known member of the community, church, local council and county council.

Inside the gymnasium, student MCs Kyle Lawson and Nicole Riman introduced various presentations, including slideshows and videos created by students and shown via projector, as well as guest speakers and live performances from the school choir, led by teacher Helen Flannery on piano and sometimes accompanied by students Bryce Williston and Sartaj Auklakh on guitar.

Those presentations each fit into one of the three themes of the celebration: where we were, where we are and where we’re going.

The school’s current location opened in 2013, but originally, the elementary school opened in 1977 and operated out of the old Bradford High School building at 27 Queen St., which was built in 1923 and opened in 1924. That building still stands and is in the process of becoming a daycare.

Vice Principal Anne Wright noted the “prestigious history” of the school which was rediscovered by the Grade 4 and 5 classes as they worked with the Bradford Historical Society to learn more and share it with the rest of the school.

“Mr. Frederick Christopher Cook had an amazing sense of humour, was kind, generous, and he and Mrs. Cook worked tirelessly to make our community the dynamic welcoming town we call home,” Wright said.

In congratulating the school community on their milestone, Debbie Connors, Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) trustee for Bradford, emphasized the impact the school has to students’ “journey of learning.”

“From their tentative first steps of entering kindergarten to their confident steps of graduation, this school has been here for thousands of young minds,” she said.

That sentiment was echoed by John Dance, the board’s director of education, who noted “the themes you’ve chosen are especially appropriate,” and suggested the school could be considered “the home of public education,” in Bradford.

Matthew Webbe, the board’s superintendent of education, acknowledged the warmth and feeling of family and community throughout the celebration.

“This school community culture and passion has risen again and again to contribute to the wonderful experiences in Bradford,” he said, likening their positivity and drive to that of Cook himself.

School council co-chairs Nina Siddall and Jessica Brinkell said they are proud to be involved in a “long and distinguished list of volunteers” who have supported the school over the years and helped make the facility “one of great pride for our community.”

While she was unable to attend in person, York-Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney appeared in a recorded video in which she said the school’s symbol, the phoenix, is the “perfect example” of the “resilience the school has.”

“For 100 years, Fred C. Cook Public School has risen from the ashes and continued a legacy of educational excellence,” she said, sharing her appreciation for the “oldest educational site in Bradford” and its “rich history.”

Bradford Mayor James Leduc called it “truly remarkable” for a school in the community to reach “such a significant milestone” which he called “a testament to the legacy of an institution dedicated to education, growth and community spirit.”

On behalf of council and in an homage to the plaque provided to the school when it reopened for grades 6 to 8 in 1977 after the new Bradford District High School had opened, the mayor provided a new plaque “so this momentous occasion can be remembered and celebrated for years to come.”

To conclude the ceremony, principal Greg Blakeley provided a closing address in which he acknowledged the growth of the educational landscape in Bradford over the last two years, during which time, the SCDSB has opened two new schools: Harvest Hills Public School and Marshview Public School.

“We have one thing they don’t: We are really, really old,” he joked, before noting the importance of a “dense history” and “solid traditions.”

“As the current stewards of Fred C. Cook Public School, we have a responsibility to honour the past in a way that respects the history and traditions of our school, but also in a way that represents modern and current times. We recognize that education, schools and students have changed dramatically,” he said.

Blakeley thanked everyone for celebrating the milestone while also helping the school look forward to a “bright and prosperous future.”

Following the presentation, guests were welcomed to enjoy cake and refreshments.

Key dates

As part of the celebration, students prepared and handed out printed programs which also included a timeline of the school’s milestones, some of which include:

  • 1923 — Building constructed at 27 Queen St. to replace the burned Bradford High School at cost of $60,500
  • 1924 — Building opened as Bradford High School
  • 1950 — Building renamed Bradford District High School
  • 1959-1960 — The high school built five new classrooms for manual training, home economics, an auditorium/gymnasium and a cafeteria for $350,000
  • 1972 — Proposal submitted for new high school building
  • 1976 — The new high school opened at 70 Professor Day Dr.
  • 1977 — Fred C. Cook Senior Public School opened at 27 Queen St. for grades 6 to 8
  • 1981 — The school began welcoming students in grades 4 and 5
  • 1995 — The school began offering extended French
  • 2008 — The building at 27 Queen St. was nominated as a Bradford monument
  • 2012 — The school stopped offering extended French
  • 2012 — Fred C. Cook Senior Public School moved to the Bradford Public School at 177 Church St. while the new school building was constructed
  • 2013 — The school opened in its new location at 20 Fletcher St. and was renamed to Fred C. Cook Public School as it began welcome students from kindergarten to Grade 8
  • 2016 — The Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury purchased the 27 Queen St. location for $501,000
  • 2019 — The town sold that location to Eh to Zed daycare
  • 2023 — Fred C. Cook Public School obtained the platinum status of EcoSchools Canada certification
  • 2023 — The school obtained the Gold Status of the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association certification

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Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
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