The Abbotsford board of education has approved a letter of support granting permission to restore the South Poplar one-room schoolhouse.
The board discussed the matter at its public meeting on June 16, stating that it will support the project “as part of a federally funded Applied Heritage Preservation Project” and with all costs being assumed by Heritage Abbotsford Society (HAS).
The schoolhouse, which opened as the only school in that area in January 1933, is located at the corner of Huntingdon and Gladwin roads, adjacent to South Poplar Traditional School. The new South Poplar school opened in the 1950s.
HAS sought the board’s permission to restore the schoolhouse and to obtain a letter of support to secure federal funding for the project.
Christina Reid, HAS executive director, told The Abbotsford News that the South Poplar schoolhouse is among local “heritage assets” in need of restoration.
She said HAS has approached University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) to see if they would be interested in having staff run classes in applied heritage preservation, using these assets as projects.
Some parts of restoration – such as the electrical, roofing and seismic work – will be offered as post-COVID economic incentives to trades, Reid said.
In terms of the schoolhouse, Reid said there are still several factors to be worked out before the restoration can begin.
She said HAS hopes to secure some of the $500 million in COVID relief funding for cultural, sports and heritage organizations announced by the federal government in May.
Initial plans had called for the schoolhouse to be moved to the Trethewey House Heritage Site on Ware Street, but Reid said that is no longer the case.
“We will not be moving the schoolhouse, but the idea is to help the district make this building usable, collect the stories about it – the teachers, the students and so on – using funding we hope will come from the $500 million federal aid,” Reid said.
“Should that portion not come into fruition, then we will look at other funding, because regardless of where the funding comes from, the classes have to happen, restoration has to happen, and economic stimulus for trades should be a given.”
Reid said HAS is also working on the budgets for two other heritage projects. One is the 1910 BC Electric Railway’s Upper Sumas station, which is currenly in the HAS collection at Trethewey House Heritage Site.
The other is a city-owned building, which Reid said she can’t name at this time.
“As we finish each individual project, if there is an interest from UFV, the school district and the community in continuing with the project, we can add other assets to be restored by the next generation of students,” she said.
The Abbotsford board of education agreed to donate the South Poplar schoolhouse to HAS (then the MSA Museum Society) in 2012.