A new chapter in Fort Frances history

“I used to see staff in the hallway who would say this day would never come–well, here it is.”
The first words uttered by principal Terry Ellwood during the grand opening of the new Fort Frances High School last Wednesday summed up the spirit of the moment.
About 300 district residents turned out to witness the historic moment and get a firsthand look at the facility.
Beginning with the opening ceremony at 4 p.m., dignitaries such as NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton, Warren Hoshizaki, director of education for the Rainy River District School Board, and others made their feelings about the new school clear.
Besides acknowledging the former Fort Frances-Rainy River Board of Education for its perseverance in getting the “multi-use” project off the ground, Ellwood thanked the contractors–C.A. Ventin and Daoust Construction–for “the way they worked with the design team to give us both form and function. For giving us the school we want.”
Hoshizaki also applauded the efforts of the previous board, as well as the current high school staff, for making the school happen and the transition go smoothly.
“John McLeod [former director of education] put energy into this, and got this project done,” he remarked. “I’m very proud to be here but I know it’s the staff that’s really done all the work.”
Board chairman Dennis Brunn, who sat on the “multi-use” committee since its early stages, went over the steps to get the school built.
“It all sounds so easy. Believe me, it was anything but. Some hard lessons were learned but anything worthwhile takes hard work and determination,” he said.
Hampton noted not only would the school be an asset to the district but it would stand as a sign of accomplishment for Northwestern Ontario.
“I know there isn’t facility in Northwestern Ontario that could match this. You’d have to go to suburban Toronto to see a school like this,” he said to a round of applause.
“This is what we need for our children for them to grow in a knowledge economy,” Hampton added.
At the school’s main entrance, Hampton officially cut the ribbon, which was held by Robert Indian of the Ojibway Youth Council, Jessica Lovisa, president of the FFHS student council, and R.J. Comeau and Beth Freeman, both student reps on the school council.
< *c>Library named
The ceremony was followed by a second ribbon-cutting for the school’s library. Officially named the Alice Morrison Widurski Library, the honouree was on hand for the ceremony.
A teacher and librarian at Fort High from 1934 to 1975, Widurski spoke about her memories of the high school library up until her retirement.
“[The honour] has been a humbling experience but a very proud experience,” she said afterwards.
“I will always remember it as it was, as a teacher and as librarian. Not as it stands today but as it was when it echoed with the footsteps of thousands of students over the years.
“But this new resource centre has been a long time coming, and it looks like it was worth the wait,” she added.
Joyce Cunningham, head librarian at the new library, wholeheartedly supported the naming of the library. “Those of us who remember [Widurski] know her dedication,” she said.
“With her efforts, the library grew from a single classroom to the resource centre we just moved. She’s been an inspiration to us all,” Cunningham added.
Those on hand then were treated to several skits and musical numbers in the Townshend Theatre, courtesy of the senior drama class and the school choir.
“During the day, this is a classroom, and one thing is sure, it’s one of the nicest classrooms I’ve ever been in,” teacher John Dutton told the crowd before the students wowed them with a handful of performances.
Finally, people were free to tour the new facility after enjoying refreshments provided by Kathy’s Katering in the cafeteria.
Navigating through the halls with maps available near the entrance, as well as a helping hand from student council members, people voiced their satisfaction with the modern facility.
“I’m amazed at the facility,” said Paula Parfitt.
“For being such a small town, it’s so modern. Especially the theatre,” she noted. “I went to a high school with 2,000 students in Scarborough and it’s the same thing.”