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Story of our School


Cornwall's Central Public School (1817 - 2017) celebrated 200 years in education during the 2017 -2018 school year. The school, formerly called Cornwall Public, is the oldest public school in the region. It has a wonderful, rich history and is very significant to Cornwall.

Central Public School started its journey in the middle of the 19th century as Cornwall Public School, a brick structure with 12 rooms constructed on a lot in the center of a thriving town. It was one of the most impressive buildings of its time, alongside the new post office and the first high school. The physicality of the building has changed but the true reasons for its being, and now its preservation, are the children who sat at the desks and the teachers who taught them.

The current Central Public School site had a school on the property as early as 1816. In 1853-54 trustees obtained 740 pounds from town council to construct a new school. A brick house was constructed; two stories with two rooms on each floor. In 1883 - 84 student enrollment had increased to such an extent that another plot of land was purchased. A new school was commissioned to be built by William Atchison.

At the center of the five acres of land was erected a large brick building; two stories with 12 classrooms. It was topped with a heavy school bell which reminded the town that school had started for the morning and afternoon sessions. The school was ready to receive all the elementary children of the city and it also served as a training centre for teachers, known as a Model School until 1924. Student teachers came from Cornwall and outlying towns including Morrisburg, Iroquois, Chesterville, Wales, Lancaster, Spencerville and Morewood.

In 1921, a new addition was built consisting of six rooms and an assembly hall extending north. In June 1931, because the student population had increased again, another eight room fireproof extension was built facing south, boasting a beautiful front entrance giving the school a dignified appearance. The brick and stone work was intricate, blending artistically with the old building in behind.

The front entrance and the 1931 addition still stand as a testament to the skilled craftsmen of the time. To the right of the entrance is a cornerstone made of Scotch Granite, which was a gift from Dr. Charles Hamilton, who was a long time member of the Board of Trustees and was a Member of Parliament.

1934 school

Standard-Freeholder Souvenir Edition in 1934

In September, 1944, an earthquake hit without warning, damaging many Cornwall buildings and Central Public School sustained extensive damage. The brick near the roof on the east and west sides was shaken loose leaving gaping holes. Cracks appeared in the walls inside the school.

In 1962, the 1884 and 1921 sections were demolished to make room for a more modern school. This new addition adjoining the 1931 section was officially opened in 1965.

In 1967 at Central Public a new semester started with the 1931 section becoming a Junior School, Kindergarten to grade 6, and the new addition a Senior School which operated on a semi rotation basis.

In September, 1978 the first classes of the 50/50 French Immersion program debuted. Central Public was the school chosen by the board trustees to be the pioneer of the new program.

Today the school offers 50/50 French Immersion as well as a Core French program.

Central Public has students enrolled from Kindergarten to grade 6.

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