On the morning of Monday, Dec. 12, 1949, disaster struck. The one-roomed Springvale School, southeast of Red Deer, burned down. Fortunately, all the children made it out safely. However, there was the pressing issue of finding a new classroom for them.
Hence, the class was quickly transferred to one of the old A-20 Army Camp huts, north of 57 St. by the Red Deer River. The Red Deer Composite High School was already housed in several of the adjoining huts.
In the fall of 1950, elementary and middle (junior high) school students who lived adjacent to the City of Red Deer were transferred to the classrooms in the complex. Because the rural school districts to the east of the City were known as Balmoral # 1 and Balmoral # 2 (later called Westward View), the new three-room school was initially called Balmoral # 3.
In the fall of 1951, the Springvale students were moved back to a new, replacement schoolhouse.
However, Balmoral # 3 continued to grow rapidly as Grade IX students were transferred to the school, followed by students from such other rural school districts as Balmoral #1, Fairlands and Willowdale.
With students now coming daily from longer distances, regular school bus runs were established. Moreover, children from the Penhold airbase were bused to Balmoral #3 until Andersons of Craigmyle School was opened at Mynarski Park (the Penhold on-base housing or PMQs now known as Springbrook).
With class sizes growing so quickly, students were temporarily accommodated in the west wing of the new Lindsay Thurber Composite High School, most of which was still under construction. Once LTCHS opened in its new facility, the Balmoral # 3 students were moved into the old army hospital building, which was also occupied by the administrative offices of the Red Deer (rural) School Division.
On Feb. 11, 1955, the name of Balmoral # 3 was changed to River Glen, after the name of the River Glen dairy farm to the north. This farm, which was owned for many years by the Busby family, was purchased by R.V. McCullough, the Red Deer School Division superintendent and his wife Mattie, who renamed the farm Glenmere.
Overcrowding meant that students had to be moved back and forth to various classroom facilities. Also, the Second World War “temporary” buildings were really starting to show their age. Finally, a new River Glen School was constructed on 59 St. in 1960.
Overcrowding remained a significant problem.
More than 850 students were crammed into 24 classrooms and some of the old army huts had to be still used. Others were taken over for a couple of years by the Red Deer Separate School Board which had decided to close the classrooms at St. Joseph Convent.
Having adequate and sufficient space at River Glen remained a problem for many years, despite renovations and expansions. In the early 1980s, high school grades were added. There was a sharp drop in the high school enrollment after Hunting Hills High School was built in 1994.
However, the high school program at River Glen rebounded, with many instructional innovations being tried and a major renovation and modernization of the school being done in 1999.
Recently, with the Chinook’s Edge School Division constructing a large new school in Penhold and the Gateway Christian School looking for new space to handle its increasing enrollments, River Glen School is being closed and the facilities are being taken over by Gateway.
A special reunion and homecoming for all River Glen alumni and staff is planned for May 17 to celebrate the legacy of this special school as a new era is about to commence. More information can be obtained by contacting David Mathias and/or the school office.