Restoring Saar School: A Thread to the Past in a World of Knots

         Since 1926, Saar school has been a source of pride for the community of Kronau, Saskatchewan. The old building was completed in January of 1926 across the highway from Kronau and was active from 1935 until 1986. It was an Elementary school, teaching children from Kindergarten to Grade 6. The building being renovated by the Kronau Museum today is a two-classroom schoolhouse, and there was also an additional building along with a teacherage.

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         Sylvia Springinatic began teaching at Saar at the age of 24 in 1963. Coming from a small town near Yorkton, Saskatchewan, she was an outsider to the Kronau community and didn’t know what to think of it at first. However, after being greeted warmly by the community, she found herself welcome and a cozy fit in the small town. She lived in the teacherage and taught the younger-grade students. At that time, she recalled, there were not nearly as many career options as today, especially for women. Typically, a lady would have to decide between nursing and teaching, and–because she couldn’t stand the sight of blood–Mrs. Springinatic naturally chose to teach after only a year of training in Regina.

         Although teachers at that time didn’t go through near as much training as teachers today, the lessons learned and values taught still remain embedded in their pupils. Rhonda Lamb, who was taught by Mrs. Springinatic and is a volunteer for the Kronau Museum, still remembers her teachers from a young age:

“[Mrs. Drake] taught us to explore and look at bigger things. I learned to be creative, how to learn for myself. Mrs. Springinatic also had a reading race…a simple paper racetrack above our blackboard.  You got to move a step for every book you read (grade 1 & 2) and could tell her about the story. I still have the two books I won and she instilled the value of reading.”

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         Certainly the community of Kronau will agree with Mrs. Springinatic when she specifies the importance of preserving Saar school. “It is a landmark of the community,” she states, “If the building is still usable and sustainable, why destroy it?” A pride in heritage is a common thread among the small-town’s residents.

“A school in a town means life, children and community,” Susan MacPhail, a former student of Mrs. Springinatic describes. “Once the school goes then business follows and then it becomes a ‘bedroom community’.  People may still live in the town, but the town does not have the same life and community spirit as before.”

         As many Kronau residents will remember, the more recent Saar school closed in 2007, located at the East end of the Hamlet. Students remember the school for its small size of 50 students, but the effort put into the establishment by caring teachers made a huge difference in their lives. Rustyn Stenberg, who attended the school for six years in a “large” class of 15 students, reminices:

“If I wouldn’t [have] had the teachers I had at Saar I would not have done well in school. They helped me get to where I am and helped make me the person I am today. I had problems in school and hated it. … Mr. Pelletier and Mrs. Mitchell helped me see that I could do it if I just set my mind to it. I told Mrs. Mitchell once that my dog ate my homework. We didn’t have a dog and she was my neighbour.”

 

         The value of small-town schools will certainly not be forgotten by this generation, especially in a world with increasingly growing school sizes. Due to a lack in resources, small schools just can’t keep up with the funding that large schools acquire, and this results in the larger schools absorbing them. There are countless examples of this same situation across the province. But among those who were willing to share their experiences, one thread ties each story together: the values that only rural communities can give us. What may have been lost with the absorption into larger schools can be remembered for generations in the building of the old Saar school in Kronau, Saskatchewan.

 

Special thanks to Sylvia Springinatic, Rhonda Lamb, Susan MacPhail, and Rustyn Stenberg for sharing their stories and providing the information required to write this piece.DSC08904

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