Historic Sites of Manitoba: Varennes School / École Varennes (22 Varennes Avenue, Winnipeg)
Voted on and approved by St. Vital voters of the Glenlawn School District, Varennes School was constructed to handle the educational demands of the post-Second World War “baby boom” and new housing developments in the area. Under construction as of September 1951, on a design by architect Walter Katelnikoff, the six-classroom structure cost around $83,000 to complete and opened its doors to students on 3 January 1952.
On 1 February 1952, the school was opened officially by Minister of Education William Conrad “Wally” Miller. Also present at the opening ceremony were St. Vital Mayor Henry Southwood “Harry” Paul, Elswood Fredrick Bole, Chairman of the Municipal and Public Utiliities Board David Leopold Mellish, Department of Education Chief Administrator Bernice Scott Bateman, School Inspector Hugh Connolly, School Board Chairman Samuel Burland, MLAs Joseph Gustave Van Belleghem and Edwin Arnold Hansford, and Principal John Dean Finlay.
Upon opening, the building’s capacity was unable to meet enrollment demands, and expansion with a new wing containing seven classrooms began almost immediately. The new section was opened in December 1953, before which the school employed staggered hours and off-site classes in the Windsor and Glenwood Community Clubs to accommodate the large student body. A further expansion occurred in 1959 with the addition of a two-storey section with two-thirds of a gymnasium.
In 1977, the gymnasium was expanded to its full extent on a design by Winnipeg architect John Mahan Venables of the firm Pratt Lindgren Snider Tomcej and Associates. The school later handled a dual-immersion program before converting to exclusively French-immersion, operated by the Louis Riel School Division. Between 2009 and 2022, the student population increased from 264 to 355.
Among the teachers of Varennes School were Kathleen Marion “Kay” Smith (?-1972), Colette Daley (c1998), and Al Thiessen.
Photos & Coordinates
“St. Vital votes Friday on school bylaw Monday,” Winnipeg Free Press, 19 June 1951, page 3.
[Photo caption], Winnipeg Free Press, 20 June 1951, page 3.
“Windsor students move to clubroom,” Winnipeg Free Press, 13 September 1951, page 28.
“Classes to start in new school,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 January 1952, page 3.
“Official opening set for Varennes School,” Winnipeg Free Press, 28 January 1952, page 3.
“Miller opens new school in St. Vital,” Winnipeg Free Press, 2 February 1952, page 8.
“Building of new schools expected to route bogeys of crowded classes,” Winnipeg Free Press, 22 July 1953, page 3.
“New wing opened in St. Vital school,” Winnipeg Free Press, 18 December 1953, page 5.
“Board upholds transfer of two,” Winnipeg Free Press, 8 May 1975, page 46.
“Call for tenders,” Winnipeg Free Press, 14 May 1977, page 49.
“The St. Vital SD #6,” Winnipeg Free Press, 19 April 1984, page 25.
Obituary [Kathleen Marion Smith], Winnipeg Free Press, 16 January 1986, page 51.
“The St. Vital SD #6,” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 May 1988, page 68.
“Students, staff at Ecole Varennes bring Christmas to Chad child,” Winnipeg Free Press South Community Review, 13 December 1995, page 1.
“First aid training credited when Ecole Varennes teacher saves choking student,” Winnipeg Free Press South Community Review, 1 April 1998, page 3.
“Manitoba Maritimers meet for fall feast,” Winnipeg Free Press North/Northeast Community Review, 26 September 2001, page 8.
Henderson’s Winnipeg and Brandon Directories, Peel’s Prairie Provinces, University of Alberta Libraries.
We thank Rose Kuzina and the grades 5 and 6 class of Debbie Duncan at École Varennes for providing additional information used here.
Page revised: 15 June 2022