Sitting in a small room in Kingston Collegiate Vocational Institute, teacher and librarian Joanne Whitfield holds a framed piece of paper with faded ink.
She says it’s the oldest document at the school and dates back to 1851.
“It’s pretty delightful because it’s an apology by F. Brown to his master D.A. Givens for some behaviour,” Whitfield explained. “We don’t know what.”
It’s one piece of the school’s more than two-century history, and what to do with that history — some of which spans two world wars, the Korean War and the birth of the Canadian flag — is a big question.
KCVI students, along with students from Queen Elizabeth Vocational Institute, will be attending the new Kingston Secondary School at some point in the next school year. Limestone District School Board superintendent of education Krishna Burra says getting a mix of items from the two schools is important when students move into K.S.S.
“That balance between making the new school an appropriate legacy between QECVI and KCVI, while also allowing the students of the new school to create their own history,” Burra said.
Many of the paper documents will be donated to the Queen’s archives, but other tough decisions will have to be made. For example, there are grandfather clocks and paintings donated by graduating classes from past decades.
It’s some of those painting from the 1920s and 30s that are creating a lot of discussion.
There are several off-site and in storage that come from prominent Canadian artists, with two of them painted by Group of Seven artists Arthur Lismer and A.Y. Jackson.
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The paintings have yet to be appraised, but Burra says no decision has been made about their future.
“If they were sold, they could be used for enhancements to the new school or potentially for some student bursaries to help some of those students who might be in financial need pursue their post secondary aspirations,” Burra said.
Along with possible cultural treasures, there are also oddities in the school, too.
Deep in the basement are the remains of a firing range, and no one is entirely sure when it was built or when it ceased operating. At the far end of the range remains one metal target and an old ceiling light — both dented and full of holes from bullets fired decades ago.
KCVI principal Talya McKenna says they recently donated the few remaining rifles they had from the days of the range.
“Rifles that were used in the range have actually been sent to the Princess of Wales’ Own Regiment and they are going to be there on display,” McKenna said.
In an effort to preserve the two schools’ respective histories, McKenna says several committees have been working tirelessly over the last three years, “making sure that we have all artifacts digitally saved, working with past alumni.”
“We have a pretty active coffee club here that has helped us do some of the archiving,” McKenna explained.