A slightly-angled view of a black and white school building with arched windows and a curtain verandah. It has two stories. Several old-fashioned cars are parked in the front.
The building that once housed Vernon’s first court house, and, later, the Joe Hardwood/South Vernon School, at 3410 Coldstream Avenue. This photo was taken shortly before it was demolished in 1959.

Classroom overcrowding

Especially during the COVID era, a return to school presents challenges in terms of classroom overcrowding, but long before the pandemic, Vernon schools were attempting to navigate this very same difficulty.

In 1921, there were a handful of elementary schools in use in Vernon, including the Okanagan Landing and Park Schools. Even so, more students had registered for school that year than could be accommodated, with 170 more pupils than in 1920, and drastic measures were needed to ensure that no one was turned away.

A front view of a black and white building white a dark brown brick exterior and white trim. The doorways and windows are arched at the top. Several spindly tress without leaves are standing in front of the two-story building and an unpaved road is in front of it.
The former Vernon Court House on Coldstream Avenue in 1892, the year it was completed.

The Old Vernon Court House

The summer before the new term, school trustees were scrambling to house all the students; thankfully, they secured use of what was formerly Vernon’s first court house on Coldstream Avenue. With one month left before school started up again, work crews busily began adding classrooms to the building. However, despite their best efforts, the work was not finished in time.

Instead, some students found themselves in makeshift classrooms in the basement of Central (now Beairsto) school for the first few weeks of September. They were able to move into the Court House School, nicknamed the “Joe Harwood School” after the city councilor who spearheaded the project and was later named President of the BC School Trustees Association, when construction was completed on September 19, 1921.

The South Vernon School

The Joe Harwood School (or the South Vernon School as it was actually called) consisted of four classrooms; over the years, the building was put to other uses as well, including as a Legion and a health unit. In the years following the 1921 scramble, the opening of other schools—including Harwood Elementary—meant that the Joe Harwood School was no longer needed.

The building was demolished in 1959.

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

 

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator