North Otter Elementary School
The Early Years of our Community
by Art Hoock
The first school serving the North Otter area was the one-room Beaver School, built in the early 1890’s by James Skea at the northwest corner of 56th Avenue and 256th Street.
In September,1918, the first County Line School opened, located approximately 26030 – 56th Avenue. It was a two-room school, complete with a central wood furnace in the lower level. After it burned down in 1931, a three-room school with a lower play level replaced it. It had no electricity or indoor plumbing, and each room had a wood-fired heater. In 1940 a fourth classroom for grades one and two was added on the lower west end, taught by Hazel (Harding) Harrower. Hilda Jude taught there from 1935 until 1945.
A modern County Line school was built at the northwest corner of 264th Street and 62nd Avenue, with classes starting in February, 1948. Students from the North Otter area were taken to and from this school in a boxy orange International school bus with wooden seats, affectionately dubbed the "Cheese Box."
When school began in September, 1948, it soon became apparent that the new County Line school could not hold all the students. Around November, North Otter area grades four to six students, taught by Mrs. Anne Hoock, and the grade seven class taught by Miss Neufeld, moved back to the old school which was renamed Roberts Road school. It had been wired with electric lights but still had outdoor washrooms.
Workers, meanwhile, prepared foundations, at 5370 – 248th Street for the three classrooms that were to be moved at the end of the school year. In addition, a new full-length flat roof section was constructed to later mate with the three old classrooms. This included a hallway, staffroom, washrooms, a furnace room, and a covered play area at each end.
This new school was named North Otter Elementary and opened in September, 1949. The centre room was used as an activity room the first year, with grades one to three taught by Anne Hoock in the south room, and grades four to six taught by Principal P.L. Murray in the north room. In the second year all three rooms were used for classrooms. Students living between Robertson Crescent and the end of the road north of 56th Avenue were bussed to the North Otter School. The school grounds provided ample room for a variety of activities with a large field east of the school and a bush area with rolling humps and dips on the south side.
About 12:15 a.m. on Friday, December 13, 1963, local resident, Willie Gerber, was on his way home when he noticed smoke coming from North Otter School and roused the proprietors of Warkentin’s store, who turned in the alarm. By the time the Aldergrove and Central Langley fire department arrived, each being about five miles away, the three classrooms and hallway were fully engulfed in flames. The portable classroom was saved, but was useless without the main building’s facilities.
By Monday morning four classrooms on the upper east end of Langley High School had been roped off, and the North Otter students were bussed there until their new school could be built."
At the present time our community is a varied one, reflecting a full range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Statistics Canada (1991) notes our average family income as being close to the B.C. average and our transient rate (an indicator of stability) is slightly higher than the district average. Most of our population is either semi-rural (one to five acre parcels) or suburban in nature with a strong family orientation.
As part of our continuing efforts to develop good citizenship in our students, our school has implemented a positive behaviour model called STAR. This acronym stands for SAFETY, TEAMWORK, ACADEMICS, RESPECT. We frequently review the meaning of S.T.A.R. with our students and reward students who recognize that a positive and safe school requires that all students take an active role in contributing to our school. Our parents have made it quite clear that they are happy with the S.T.A.R. program and the"Where Kids Reach for the STARs" emphasis at North Otter. They are a highly supportive and involved community, and this involvement is recognized as one of the factors that contributes to North Otter being a strong and effective school. Our last Ministry of Education Parent Satisfaction Survey (May 2003) gave North Otter a very high approval rating in the category of School Environment and Parental Involvement. In this survey, 69% of our parents either agreed or strongly agreed that they were satisfied with the school (the district average was 66% and the provincial average was 62%).
North Otter's population has slowly declined over the last 10 years from a population of over 400 at one time to an enrolment of 264 as of September 2010. North Otter has experienced this drop in enrolment due to the fact that there have not been many new families moving into the area recently.
Academically, our students fare well. Many of our students are accepted into the Honours 8/9 Math program at D.W. Poppy Secondary. We are proud of the number of our students who obtain honour role status and scholarships at D.W. Poppy.
Our Fine Arts program supports and inspires students. Our intermediate music program incorporates recorder, ukulele and band (offered to students in Grade 7). Primary students receive 30 minutes of music instruction each week. Our athletic tradition continues to be strong with boys' and girls' teams participating in various district events and leagues in volleyball, basketball and track and field.
In summary, we treasure the family spirit we have at North Otter and will continue to foster this culture. The majority of our students feel very good about themselves and demonstrate great respect for others. There exists at North Otter a very open, progressive and positive attitude towards learning about each other and the world at large.