Bidding a last goodbye to A.B. Greenwell Elementary School in Youbou

A.B. Greenwell Elementary: Staff, students and extended school family mark school’s last days

Korbyn McGonigle

Korbyn McGonigle

Youbou’s A.B. Greenwell Elementary School saw its last end-of-the-year ceremony on the afternoon of June 19.

Parents were treated to coffee and goodies in a festive atmosphere as students sang songs and received awards for unique and individual talents.

Though the ceremony was tinged with sadness at seeing the school close, school staff and Principal Jann Drake chose to approach the day in a positive light.

“It’s more about moving on,” said Drake. “I didn’t want to go the closure thing.”

Drake said she is one of the lucky ones who happens to be moving on as well. She will be principal at Palsson Elementary School starting in September, and is happy she will be working with many of the same students and their parents.

“So that’s a comfort to me, and I think it’s a comfort to them,” said Drake.

She adds the parents who were most concerned were those who have children going into Grade 4 this fall who were not sure where their children would be placed following school restructure..

However, Drake feels that through discussions these parents have had with Lake Cowichan School, as well as with herself, parents and their children are feeling settled.

“I think they were ready,” she said. “They kind of knew because there’s been talk for quite a while.”

But the emotional element of the closure certainly rang true for some in attendance. One was Bill Greenwell, son of Archie Greenwell after whom the school is named.

A.B. Greenwell was originally opened in 1969 in Lake Cowichan. In February of 2007, the school was closed due to a mould infestation. Students and staff were moved into the vacant Yount school in Youbou, which was closed in June of 2006.

When the school was built, Greenwell said there was some debate as to what it would be called.

“When they asked him (Archie) if he would allow them to have his name on it, he wasn’t going to accept, and (our family) talked him into doing it because of his grandkids and great-grandkids that would be coming along,” said Greenwell.

The elder Greenwell was chairman of the old Lake Cowichan School Board for 26 years. Understandably, Greenwell is sad to see the school close.

“It’s sad from the point of view that you lose a legacy, and he was definitely a legacy to this whole area,” said Greenwell.

Lisa Hamilton, PAC chair for the school, is also sad.

“I think our kids have a little jewel out here,” said Hamilton. “We’ve got so much room and space and they’re such a little family that I’m sad to see that end.”

She said that parents are not so much disgruntled about having to commute their kids to Lake Cowichan—approximately 70 per cent of the students at A.B. Greenwell are bused—as they are with having to pay for school bus transportation.

“I’m fine with busing my children. I just don’t want to pay $400 a year to do it,” said Hamilton.