New Brunswick

Last of Harkins schools closing in January

This year's students at Harkins Middle School are the last pupils that will be taught in a school that opened in 1924 and will close its doors in January 2017.

Celebration of school to be held Oct. 18

Harkins Middle School is closing in January when Grade 6 to 8 students will move to the new Max Aitken Academy. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

This year's students at Harkins Middle School in Miramichi are the last pupils that will be taught in a school that opened in 1924 and will close its doors in January 2017.

Principal Jennifer Sullivan says the students and staff will be moving to a new kindergarten to Grade 8 school and following the elementary students who vacated Harkins Elementary—a school that opened in 1867, the year Canada became a country—in June.

"We will be joining what had been Harkins Elementary, Croft Elementary and now Harkins Middle. We will be starting at the new school, which is the Max Aitken Academy."

Harkin complex empty

This means the entire Harkins complex, in the former town of Newcastle will soon be empty, but at one time the three buildings were full to capacity.

Harkins Middle School principal Jennifer Sullvan says she attended Harkins Junior High School before returning years later as a teacher then administrator. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
Sullivan reviewed the history of the buildings.

"In 1924, that building was overflowing with students and then because of that they built the stone building that is the front of our building...Harkins High Academy."

That school had eight classrooms and in 1955 the vocational part of the then-junior high was built to house a gym and trade classrooms. Another building was built in 1960 for a junior high school. 

Sullivan added by 1972, the high school portion of this school closed and Miramichi Valley High School was built and the present Harkins Middle School became a junior high. But by the mid-1990s when the province moved to middle school philosophy, Grade 6 was moved into the building and Grade 9 went to the high school.

"And that is when this building became Harkins Middle School, which it is today."

'Building with great heart'

Sullivan said she attended the school when it was a junior high. "So that's my most special time and most special memories of this building. And I tell the kids today, these are the kids you're going to remember."

Harkins Middle School is set to close its doors for the final time in January 2017. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

Sullivan returned to teach at the school for a few years and then worked as the administrator at the middle school.

"This is a building with great heart. It's been a community school for many years. We're all a bit bittersweet. We've been a family here. With change we realize we have to move and we need to go on and make the best of that. But certainly we will miss this building and all that it's been."

Many changes

Larry Wood agrees with Sullivan. As first a teacher in 1969, then vice-principal and principal, he said he has seen many changes.

Farrell McCarthy and Larry Wood say they have seen many changes during their time as teachers and as administration at the former Harkins High School and Harkins Junior High School. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

"At first, the kids were sitting in rows and everyone had a textbook and things like that. As the years moved on, more group learning. Then of course when the inclusion program came in, we had to change the building and teach the kids to accept the ones coming into the school, to include them in all the programs."

Former vice-principal Farrell McCarthy began teaching in 1969 when it was a high school.

"In 1967, we had 900 students in that one building over there. Because Harkins High was still here, of course. And 300 students in each grade. It was a busy but exciting time."

The school will be celebrating the end of its era, and all present and former students are invited to attend the event being held on Tuesday, Oct. 18 from 5:00 to 11:00 p.m.

Organizers are looking for pictures and memorabilia to put on display and students and staff to share their memories. Items can be posted on the Facebook events page or sent by email to harkinsmemorialpictures@nbed.nb.ca.

With files from Bridget Yard