Calling all long-time Lakers! If you or your family lived in Lake Cowichan in 1969 or earlier, you may be able to help the Cowichan Valley Schools Heritage Society (CVSHS).
The society seeks information about the former Cowichan Lake Superior School, which was built in 1925 at 29 Renfrew Rd. in Lake Cowichan. Society volunteers believe the school closed for student use by June 1969, but have not been able to confirm this theory.
“It’s really hard to get the history of the Lake Cowichan schools,” said Carolyn Prellwitz, a CVSHS volunteer. Prellwitz said she has visited the Kaatza Museum and Archives, however, official records on the school are scarce.
“If you scroll through the Cowichan-Leader [for information] they just called [the school] either Cowichan Lake or Lake Cowichan, it was really hard to figure out which little building they were talking about.”
Prellwitz’s group recently embarked on Phase II of an ongoing effort to commemorate all former schools in the Cowichan Valley currently covered by School District 79. In 2013, the group identified the sites of 15 former schools and marked them with bell-shaped plaques. For Phase II, CVHSH identified 16 more schools from throughout the Valley.
“The exact years the former Phase II schools were in operation have been documented for all but two of the 16 schools. One of these schools is Cowichan Lake Superior School,” CVHSH stated in a letter to the public. “It was later renamed, we understand, Lake Cowichan Elementary School, and then Gladys Lomas Annex. The CVSHS believes that Cowichan Lake Superior School closed for students as of the end of June 1969 at which time it became of the offices of the former School District No. 66 (Lake Cowichan).”
The organization is seeking information from former students, staff and parents of students for confirmation of June 1969 as the closure date for classes at the school.
“We are also seeking hard copy photos of the school building in its heyday as well as photos of former classes for scanning purposes.”
There are approximately 130 decommissioned schools throughout the Cowichan Valley that CVHSH would like to commemorate, dating back to the early 1860s. The society is a small group of volunteers with limited funding, so it has opted to tackle the project in small increments.
Some of the schools have disappeared entirely over the years and forest has grown up in their places.
“One of the schools that is in our Phase II project is a school out in Caycuse,” said Prellwitz. “That was first known as Camp 6 and then as Nixon Creek and finally Caycuse. And it operated for 61 years.”
Prellwitz describes the small plaques as a small recognition, but one they hope will save these schools from fading into obscurity and ultimately being forgotten.
“Some of the histories have just been lost,” she said.
Anyone with information about the former Cowichan Lake Superior School can reach the society at email@example.com or by phoning Prellwitz at 250-748-7425.