Interesting Architecture at John XXIII Catholic School

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Coordinator

The following is an excerpt from the Olive French Manuscript – a document in the archival collection about Oshawa’s earliest schools from 1867 – 1967.

To accommodate its increased enrolment, the separate school board is building a new elementary school, John XIII(sic), on Athabasca Street. It will be the first to feature the new team teaching technique. It will have operable walls in one of the three quadrants that will open a three-classroom unit where groups of pupils can be taught by a team of teachers.

This circular school is 136 feet in diameter and will have a 64 foot inner court. It will have eight classrooms and a kindergarten area. It will accommodate more than 300 students. It is expected to be ready for classes in December 1967.

The principal is not yet appointed.

Olive French, Public and Separate Schools in 1967

Earlier this year, I taught the Oshawa Museum’s First Nations program to multiple classes at John XXIII. Arriving in the parking lot, you get the first glance at the circular dome. The school has had several additions since 1967, but the apex remains its most prominent feature.

Side by side colour photographs. On the left is a circle with many spokes coming from the centre; on the right is a classroom with chairs and desks, and the ceiling features wide wooden beams and the circle with the spokes, seen in the left photo

The curved hallways make for a less institutional feeling inside than in most schools. Many teachers have told me, ‘well, you won’t get lost!’ The dome’s peak is in what is now the library, which facilitates a great teaching space.

Sadly, the traces of the operable walls Olive French mentions are no longer there, but John XXII remains Oshawa’s first circular school.

March 13-17 is March Break at the Oshawa Museum, and we’re going back to school!

Join us for School Days: discover what school was like for kids back in the early 1900s! Step back in time when you enter Guy House. Sit in school desks, write on slates, dress up like a Victorian kid, and more!

March Break at the OM is taking place from March 13 – 17, and we’re open from 9am-4pm. The last tour leaves at 3:30pm. Please allow around 1.5 hours for your visit!

March Break activities is $5/child (free for OHS Members), and this includes a tour of the Oshawa Museum.


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