By Nick Kuhl on June 22, 2019.
The Children of St. Martha’s School celebrated 30 years of being an
inclusive and welcoming school community in West Lethbridge.
The special anniversary ceremony took place on Thursday afternoon as
former teachers and community members joined St. Martha’s students
and staff in marking this important milestone in the school’s history
with traditional Blackfoot drumming, musical presentations from each
of the elementary school’s six grades and the opening of a special
One of the special guests on the day was the school’s first
principal, Ken Tratch, who currently sits on the Board of Trustees
with Holy Spirit Separate School Division No. 4. Drawing parallels
with today’s economic circumstances, Tratch spoke to students and
guests at the 30th anniversary event about the challenges he and the
division faced in trying to get funding for a much-needed new school,
the first on the westside, in the midst of a significant economic
downturn back in late 1980s. The school was built on a tight budget,
said Tratch, and on a scale slightly smaller than had been hoped, but
nonetheless he and the first staff members at the school were
determined to make the best of it no matter what.
He recalled the school had room for 250 students back then, and was
filled up completely by the time it opened officially in the fall of
1988. Students were crammed into every space available, but, in
Tratch’s estimation, dealing with these challenges only helped unify
the early school community that much more.
“We had a wonderful group of parents,” Tratch stated.
“It was very exciting for a new staff, new parents and new students
to all come together and work as hard as they did those first few
years. The very day we opened, our school was full. From the very
first day we had a large number of First Nations, Métis and Inuit
(FNMI) students who were coming to the school, and that continues to
be a mainstay of this school today.”
“It was a very inclusive community at that time, and it continues to
be so now,” he concluded.
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