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School Car

Borrowing an idea from Ontario, the Department of Education introduced in 1936 what was known as the "School Car." The Anglo Newfoundland Development Company donated a rail coach, and the Newfoundland Railway converted the car into a school. The railway was responsible for maintenance costs while the Department supplied a teacher, curriculum materials and equipment.

The teacher, Mr. Moores, followed the course outlined for correspondence studies. In 1939 the Department of Education organized a Correspondence Division to educate children living in small isolated communities without schools. The Courses, ranging from Grade I to Grave VIII, were designed by the Nova Scotia Technical College. Miss Chant, at the Department of Education, sent the lessons to the children who returned them by post for evaluation. "The lessons sent in by these little people, many of whom have never seen a school or a teacher are very commendable" (Annual Report, 1939). Approximately two hundred students enrolled in correspondence courses in 1940. The service was extended by supplying itinerant teachers who supervised the work of the children in several communities within travelling distances.

As well, the car was supplied with books from the Travelling Library.
School Car

A description of the "School on Wheels" is given by B.L. Bishop (1941):

"A very well fitted private car, owned at one time by one of the lumber companies, was converted into a school room similar to those in use in Northern Ontario. It will seat twenty pupils. In addition there are living quarters for the teacher. These quarters include a kitchenette, combined dining and sitting room and berth for sleeping."

The rail car, named Shanawadithit, travelled along the railway from 1936 to 1942. From spring to fall, spending two or three weeks at a time, the car stopped in places such as Placentia Junction, Arnolds' Cove, Walsh's Camp, Cobb's Camp, Rushy Pond, Buchans Junction, Gaff Topsail, Spruce Book and Codroy Pond.

In the year 1939 the Travelling School serviced five communities and approximately 45 children. The 1939 annual report of the Commission noted:

the progress made by the children attending has, in many cases, been remarkable. A few who attended during the school year ending in June last have during the current year, moved with their parents to centres operating regular schools and are reported as having secured the necessary ground-work to enable them to carry on their present school work successfully (Annual Report, 1939, p.41).

In January 1940 a second teacher was appointed to the "School on Wheels". While the school met with some success, it was eventually discontinued in 1941. A.R. Penney (1990) gives an increased war effort as the reason for discontinuing the service. The 1943 annual report of the Department of Education cites somewhat different reasons. The establishment of regular schools in some of the serviced settlements coupled with a lack of understanding and appreciation on the part of the adults concerned, led to decreased enrolment in the school car. The number of students benefitting from the car was so low "it was deemed advisable to discontinue this particular branch of the Correspondence Work in 1941" (Dept. of Ed., 1943, p.22).

One student who attended the school car felt priviledged to go to this school on wheels. He was able to attend the school and along with the correspondence courses finished Grade 11 -- a rather remarkable feat in those days for Newfoundlanders living in remote areas.

©All Rights Reserved. Story submitted by D. Lynch
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