There are so many of us who had so much fun trying to grow up in and around Ponoka over the years, and now we just love to dig out those tattered old year books and photos and then reminisce and chuckle about those countless memories of our mostly glorious days in school. Our town and surrounding districts have been blessed with a long and colorful history of providing a top quality education to many generations of young students, with humble beginnings in 1898 at local halls and churches and then expanded rapidly over the years with the early population explosion in both the urban and rural areas.
The history of the Ponoka High School
The first log school was built in Ponoka in the late 1800’s and hosted 10 children, but after achieving Village status in 1900 the little community began to grow quickly and new family services were needed in all areas. Our first official Public education facility, the magnificent two-story White School was built in 1902 and hosted all grades, but as overwhelming growth and demand for more classrooms prevailed the huge 12 room edifice still known as the ‘Red Brick School’ was opened in 1929, with the taxpayers very upset with the $60,000 cost of construction.
Due to overcrowding at the Brick School the very popular ‘huts’ were moved into the area in 1947 to accommodate six Junior High School rooms, but with the County students now being bused into town to attend High School a new building was added in 1958 at 48th Avenue. In 1966 the school construction era in Ponoka and district would reach its peak, and vital decisions and the addition of vital resources had to be made by the local School Division No. 34. The most ambitious project undertaken by the extremely busy County School Committee in the late 1960’s was the construction of the Ponoka Composite High School on 54th Street north of Highway 2A. The total cost of the ultra-modern new building and first class equipment was approximately two and a half million dollars, the major portion of which was financed by the Federal Government through its programme of Assistance to institutions offering Vocational Training.
In addition to an extensive academic programme, the highly modern vocational department provided for ongoing training in Automotives, Agricultural Mechanics, Welding, Drafting, Carpentry, Beauty Culture, Typing, Shorthand, Business Machines, and Office practices. The bright and spacious academic classrooms were geared to new and modern instructional methods with provisions for team teaching, language labs, and the video taping of all programmes and lessons. Also included was a well stocked library, a food services area to house a cafeteria, a large gymnasium-auditorium with outside field space for countless activities, and a general purpose room that complimented a first class educational facility of which the Ponoka Town and County would be proud of for many years to come. The Ponoka Composite High School, fondly known as ‘the Comp’ to its students was ready for school opening in September 1966 with a staff of 30 and an enrolment of nearly 500, with the administrative staff including Principal Russell Petterson, Vocational Principal Mel G. McCoy, and VP Alan MacLeod.
Now known as the Ponoka Secondary Campus, which caters to students from grade 7 to 12, the students, staff, Board, and administration are all looking forward to celebrating the 50th Anniversary of this great school, with an invitation to everyone to enjoy cake and ice-cream today, Wednesday, Oct. 5 from 4 to 7 p.m. Over those very active and memorable years many changes have been made at the former P.C.H.S., including an extensive four year renovation that was completed in 2014. Over those glorious 50 years of learning close to 10,000 Ponoka and district students have proudly graduated from the facility, which is a great credit to the skills of the staff, administration, and School Boards of then and now for their ongoing dedication and leadership. So many of our grads have gone on to further their education and entered into new careers while others stayed home to take over their farms and businesses, to seek employment, and to raise their families in this always supportive and friendly Town and County of Ponoka.