September 2022 will mark the 117th Anniversary of the opening of the Riverside Consolidated School in Riverside-Albert in 1905!
As you read about the impressive history of Riverside Consolidated School, we can proudly say that “Riverside Consolidated is the oldest consolidated school still in use as a school in New Brunswick, and no doubt in all of Canada!”
It is remarkable when you stop to think of all the generations of students that RCS has served, and served well, since that September morning in 1905 when the students, wearing their new “duds”, excitedly entered the newly built school to see what their classrooms and desks would be like and to meet their new teachers! Now remember, the Boys entered on one side of the building and the Girls entered from the opposite side. (It was made very clear by the signs above the entrances.)
At the turn of the century, consolidation of rural schools was an educational movement promoted across Canada. In 1903, New Brunswick passed legislation encouraging the establishment of consolidated schools. The Hon. Abner Reid McClelan, a resident of Riverside and former Lieutenant Governor of NB, provided the thrust to build the consolidated school by donating $5,000 towards its construction. The province provided $1,000 and local taxpayers contributed the remaining $14,000. Construction began in July 1904 on a rise of high land on the left bank of the Shepody River, between the villages of Riverside and Albert. The architect, Watson Reid of Riverside, supervised the construction of the three-storey, wooden-shingled building by Sackville contractors, H. Copp and Dixon. The foundation was made of freestone, quarried in Midway and New Ireland.
In September 1905, 225 students filed through the doors and experienced the most modern facilities and equipment available at the time. The ‘Grammar School’ for Albert County, as it was called then, had five departments and a staff of seven teachers. Students could take ‘Grammar School Courses to prepare for University Matriculation or Normal School entrance. Other departments included Household or Domestic Science, Manual Training, School Gardening and Natural Science (which supported working in agriculture). Although classes began in September 1905, the formal opening ceremony took place on June 15, 1906. New Brunswick’s Premier L. Tweedie and J. R. Inch, Chief Superintendent of Education, as well as other officials, arrived by way of the “Wilfred C.” steamer at the Riverside Wharf. They were greeted by the Hon. A. R. McClelan and the “Drum and Bugle Band” performed.
Since 1905, Riverside Consolidated School (RCS) has provided a sound education, preparing students to enter many professions or occupations to become respected community citizens and leaders. RCS has experienced many changes from its days when high school graduations were held on the third floor auditorium. In June 1967, the last high school graduation was held, with 12 graduates.High School students from the area then travelled to Hillsborough High (later, to the new Caledonia Regional High School) or to schools in Moncton to complete their high school. Following more changes from the NB Dept. of Education, RCS has been an elementary school educating students from kindergarten to grade 5 since 2008.
Community celebrations were held for both the 75th Anniversary in 1980 and the 100th Anniversary in 2005. On both occasions the surrounding communities showed their support and celebrated the school by participating in the many different events that were held. Riverside Consolidated School was formally designated as a Provincial Heritage Place in 1997 and in 2005 was registered as a Historic Place in Canada.
It is important to respect the honoured history of Riverside Consolidated and its deep roots in our past, but now we must also see RCS as continuing to be an important pillar in the future of our rural community. The families in the community are very fortunate to have the RCS, which has a family atmosphere the children feel comfortable, receive encouragement and have caring teachers who provide positive learning experiences for all students.
However, some things have not changed. RCS still stands on its original location, looking much the same as it did in 1905, and still provides the best education possible to the students who enter its doors.
On a personal note, RCS will forever hold a special place in my heart. I have nothing but fond memories and an appreciation for the education I received while at RCS from grades one through ten. I was very blessed to have enjoyed a teaching career at RCS for 30 years. In fact, I still get a feeling of home when I walk into the front foyer!
I’m certainly not alone in my sentiments. During the extraordinary attendance at the 2005 RCS 100th Anniversary celebrations, it was clear that former students and teachers also feel a special connection to RCS and hold many dear memories of their school days.
We respect the honoured history of Riverside Consolidated and its deep roots in our recent history. Today we see RCS as an important symbol of confidence in the future of our rural community.
Riverside Consolidated School is a small elementary school within the Anglophone East School District. It serves students from kindergarten through grade 5 between the areas of Lower Cape and Alma, NB. It currently boasts small class sizes, dedicated staff and a generally welcoming nature. It will soon be host to a brand new playground area thanks to the dedication and hard work of volunteers and community members and their significant fundraising efforts. Within the school is a fully licensed daycare (East Coast Kids Child Care & Learning Centre - Riverside-Albert eastcoastkids.ca)
If you live in the area and want to register your child as a student at this amazing school you can contact: Anglophone East School District, 506-856-3222, firstname.lastname@example.org, Registration | Anglophone East School District (nbed.ca) or Riverside Consolidated School, 506-882-3002, RiversideConsolidated@nbed.nb.ca. School starts again on September 6 and the staff will be looking forward to seeing all the students back again.