Mount Benson Elementary School

History

With over 130 years of public education, the Mount Benson / Wellington School site the oldest known operating public school operating on its original site in British Columbia. Mount Benson School is the third public school to serve Wellington from its current school site.

Pictoral timeline.

Enrolment History (incomplete).

TextBooks

1867

British North America Act establishes Canada as a nation. One of the terms of the legislation is that provincial legislatures "assumed full legal responsibility for education". British Columbia is still a colony and has some colonial schools, but most schools continued to be run by local individuals, communities, churches, or businesses. Children around Diver lake would have been schooled in this way.

1869

Robert Dunsmuir discovers coal on the roots of a fallen tree by Diver lake.
Wellington becomes a town shortly after with the opening of a mine.

1871

The British colony of British Columbia becomes a province of Canada. Upon joining Canada, the British North American Act dictates the new provincial government take responsibility for education inside its jurisdiction. (Previously, school were operated and managed by the local community, not by the government. Free education was unreliable, as the 1870 closure of all public schools in Victoria demonstrated.)

1872

The first "School Act" is passed in British Columbia.

May 20th, 1874

Wellington School District is created, and Trustees elected under the terms of the School Act. Wellington was classified as a City School District as it was one of the largest towns on the Island.

May 18th, 1875

"Wellington Public School" building is officially opened on what is today the upper field of Mount Benson Elementary School. This was the first public school in Wellington. (although not the first school, as the school inspector reported 90 students in 1874.))

The land and buildings which the school was located on was provided by Dunsmuir & Diggle Co.. Although it is not known if any of his children attended the school, 5 of Robert Dunsmuir's 10 children would have been young enough to attend. Henrietta Maud Dunsmuir was the youngest and turned 3 the year the school opened.

1902

Many families left Wellington after the mine was closed(1898), buildings moved to Ladysmith(1899) and a devasting fire reduced much of the town(1899). This reduction in the number of students resulted in Wellington School being reduced to "Graded Rural School" in 1902, which qualified it for some funding from the Provincial Government.

August 19th, 1904

Wellington Public School is destroyed by a fire which threatened much of the town, including the Northern terminus of the E&N Railway. The fire was international news which was even covered by the New York Times.

1904-1905

South Methodist Church located on Victoria Street is used as a temporary school while Wellington Elementary is being rebuilt.

1906

New Wellington Elementary School opens on the same site. It was originally built as a one room school house, but had an addition put on later to make it two rooms. With only two rooms the school had limited space, so students would sometimes be turned away or forced to wait until they were older.

1942

World War II has created a severe teacher shortage in BC and created other stresses on the education system. School District and school consolidations are being forced upon the districts by the Provincial Government. The consolidations are ultimately being sold as a war measure.

The consolidation plan suggested closing the smaller rural schools and building one large elementary in Nanaimo which all the kids could be bussed to. It was later watered down to send kids to several elementary schools.

District consolidation occurs desipite unrest and the affected communities are advised that the buildings, trusts and land which they supplied or built will remain for community use. Major Ney, the last Trustee for Wellington Public School, reported that Wellington was preparing to use its school building as an athletic centre.

May 5, 1944

Wellington Public School is destroyed by fire and within hours Departure Bay School, and then Chase River school are also destroyed by fire. The fires are unofficially attributed to a supporter of consolidating schools with Nanaimo-Ladysmith Rural School District. After the school was burned down Wellington residents would not have the option to reopen their school after the war. Children are sent to Brechin or Northfield. Nanaimo School District received the Insurance money for the destroyed schools.

1945

World War II ends. Baby Boom Begins

1950

The third Wellington Elementary School was opened with the name changed to "Mount Benson Elementary School". The name was changed to Mount Benson because you could see Mount Benson so well from the school. Alfred Benson was a Doctor with the Hudson's Bay Company.

The school was built on the lower field where an old apple orchard had been located and had three classrooms.

1951

A fourth classroom is added onto the east wing

1957

Wellington Hall is used for Grade 6 due to overcrowding at Mount Benson School

1958

Three more classrooms are added along with a small gym. The School now has 7 classrooms.

1966

Two more rooms are added.

1970s

Two Portables added to the school.

1982

Two more portables added to the school on the blacktop behind the school. Four portables total.

1984

Another portable is added for a total of five portables.

1986

A large Gym is added, along with changerooms and a Multi-purpose room. The 1958 gym is converted into 2 classrooms by lowering the roof and rebuilding the walls. The 1958 gym floor is preserved during the renovation and covered with carpet. Several years later the carpet is removed providing the new classrooms with hardwood floors. Some of the portables are probably removed.

1990

A portable added to the school.

1992

Two more portables added to the school.

1995

A new library is built and the surrounding rooms renovated. Old library is converted to a classroom. One of the first classrooms, room 101, is converted into the current staff room and office. Other rooms are renovated.

2004

Gym is renovated and seismically upgraded

Current

School has a full-size gym, 9 classrooms, multi-purpose room, language assistance room, computer lab and a library. Three portables remain onsite, one is used as an office, and the other two are for storage.

Credits

Thank you to the community members who have provided historical information and details, as well as to the Nanaimo Community Archives.


Site Map
Mount Benson Elementary School
4355 Jingle Pot Road, Nanaimo, BC, V9T 5P4, Canada - (250) 758-1536