Few things characterize rural Saskatchewan history like old schoolhouses. Take Saar School, for example, which now sits on our property but was once the gathering place for class… and community dances and Christmas programs and card parties and box socials – in fact, it’d be quicker to list what these old schoolhouses weren’t used for!
Now a part of Kronau Museum, old Saar School was built in 1926 and, interestingly enough, had pupils before it had a building. In 1925, it was recognized that Scott School had become an insufficient space for the students it hosted, and the idea of a new school was born. Once the structure was finished, it would replace Scott School and, similarly, belong to the Scott School District 2007. Saar stayed as so until 1957 – thirty years after the naming of Saar School – when the name was changed to the Saar School District 2007.
Scott School had received its name upon request by the town Scott, SK, but it was decided that the new building would need its own title. Along with “Saar”, “Ebenfeld” and “Sunshine” were suggested to the Board of Trustees. As they later realized, only one was available. “Saar School” was doubly appropriate as Saar had been the name of a district in Russia, the country from which many of the area’s settlers came. As you may have learnt from reading our Free Sod to Turn and Till: History of Kronau article, it was tradition for immigrants to name their settlements after areas in their homeland and the name Kronau was similarly chosen. As of January 11, 1926, Scott School was known as Saar School.
Although it’s much smaller than the schools we have today, Saar School’s trustees budgeted only $7,500 for the both the school site and building, which would have two rooms and a basement. This was done at the end of June, and nearly three months later, after bids for the construction were opened, contractor J. Linkhert was hired for $4,995. Class would begin in the fall of 1927, but not before the construction process experienced a few hiccups.
After being hired, Linkhert informed the Trustees that he would need additional money to buy cement, which he had forgotten in his original bid. By the end, a total of $99.35 was held back by the Trustees for work that the contractor never completed. The furnace was late to arrive, and as construction stretched on into the winter months, the plaster on the walls began to freeze. During construction, the Trustees decided to have the building insured. Finally, a phone was installed in October and desks were brought from Scott to the new school in November. Unfortunately, a severe storm damaged the original shingles and those needed to be replaced the next year, in 1927. As well, toilets, sidewalks, and basketball posts were transferred from the old school to the new one in May.
Saar’s first teacher was Miss Mary MacDonald.
Until 1948, when the Memorial Hall in Kronau was built, Saar School was the place that drew the community together. During the six decades that it was in operation, Saar School hosted hundreds of community events – as any rural schoolhouse would have. The place where people came together, these buildings symbolize many of the best memories for Saskatchewan’s pioneers.
The teacherage, a small building on the school grounds in which the teacher lived, was Saar School’s next project. In 1948, the school’s trustees increased the mill rate by 1% and the surplus would fund the new building. In 1950, the teacherage was completed.
In 1953, it was recognized that Saar School needed an additional classroom, which would provide for two elementary rooms and a “continuation” room for youth between grades seven and ten. Eventually, this resulted in the construction of another building on school property.
Throughout the next few decades, Saar School received some structural updates, but the last major change would be its entrance to the larger school district, Regina School Unit No. 21, Sub-Unit No. 5. Effectively, the school district’s affairs would be administered by the Regina Unit Board beginning January 1964. As well, the bank balance of Saar School’s Board account was likewise transferred and the hiring, teacherage, rental agreements, contracts, and salary schedules became the responsibility of the city board.
The old Saar school was the last school building in Kronau to be governed by a local authority.
Like many others (Scott, Steadfast, and St. Johannes schools included), our Saar School is no longer in operation. The year 1986 marked both the school’s sixtieth anniversary as well as its closure when a new school was built within Kronau. For four years, the Saar building sat unoccupied until 1990, when the building was converted into a residence.
In 2006, when it was suggested that the building be donated to Kronau Museum, then only one year old, fundraising began to move it to today’s current lot. Finally, Saar School was placed on its new basement beside the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in 2008, where it will remain. As of 2010, Saar School became a designated Municipal Heritage site.
Kronau Museum has worked tirelessly to restore Saar School to its original integrity since receiving it in 2007. Not only does it fit our mission statement (to preserve the story of Saskatchewan’s settlement), but Saar School remains a personal project for many of those involved. While it is representative of the lifestyle of Saskatchewan’s pioneers, many in the community and who sit on the museum board attended or graduated from Saar. It is with support from generous volunteers, donors, and sponsors that Saar School has been able to open its doors to the public once again – albeit, in a very different way. Saar is an especially important addition to Kronau Museum as the hamlet lost its only operating school in 2008, a loss with which many rural communities can empathize.
The following timeline summarizes the changes Kronau Museum has made:
2011: repaired the roof with new cedar shingles; installed eaves troughs
2012: windows replaced with exact replicas of the originals; new electrical panel and limited new wing installed
2013: new side door, large landing, and interior cases built
2014: continued to raise funds to insulate basement and exterior walls, as well as to replace front doors and stucco
2015: stripped and replaced old stucco; replaced and framed new windows; begin work on interior of building
2016: replace the old (and rickety!) steps with exact replicas of the original
Currently, Saar Schools serves as an extension of storage space, but will eventually double as exhibition and programming space. Regular updates on its progress are posted to our social media. To stay updated on Saar’s progress, follow Kronau Museum online.