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February 5, 2021

Prepared September, 1992 - Updated 2010

The Story of Sisler's Facilities

The construction of Sisler High School began in 1956, with a target opening date of September 1957. However, when it became apparent that the building would not be ready in time, Margaret Scott School was used for classes in the interim. As rooms were completed, teachers and their classes moved over to the new building. Legend has it that longtime Winnipeg Free Press and Winnipeg Tribune sportswriter Vince Leah suggested the school’s team name: the Spartans (this according to Sisler’s first principal, J.C. Wherrett). The school’s first mascot was Martin the Spartan. The finished facility was two storey building that included twenty-six classrooms, four science labs, three science classrooms, art room, music room, library, cooking room, sewing room, administrative space, auditorium and gymnasium and storage and ancillary spaces. 1957 saw the provision of two lower level shower and change rooms, general shops area and three classrooms, two home economic rooms and storage areas. In 1961, another addition was constructed which included eleven classrooms, music room, two science rooms, industrial arts shop, food lab, clothing lab and gymnasium. On Nov. 14, 1962, the school lost its second principal due to the untimely death of J.A. Fraser. Both teachers and students were stunned by the loss. The next addition, in 1964, was constructed to include six classrooms, three typing rooms, language lab, music room, lunch room and other modifications to the existing facility. In 1992, a woodworking shops addition was constructed adjacent to the existing shops area at the south end of the school. 1999 and 2000 saw the placement of three portable classrooms and construction of a link way to the west of the 1967 addition. The latest addition to the ever expanding facility was constructed in 2005 and included a new gymnasium and exercise area, new administrative office space, and extensive interior alterations to provide an upgraded library, life skills area as well as conversion of the existing senior gymnasium to accommodate theatre and dance programs. Many other interior building modifications were also undertaken to satisfy student program needs. This constant state of growth has made Sisler High School Manitoba’s largest school. Its diverse student population has given the school the most multicultural student population in Canada. Maclean’s also chose Sisler as one of the top ten schools in the country.

William James Sisler
W.J. Sisler, for whom Sisler School is named, was one of Winnipeg’s pioneers. His pioneering was in the field of education, among the immigrants of many nations who were struggling for a foot-hold in a new land. It was among these people, settled in the north end of Winnipeg, that Mr. Sisler spent most of his teaching career. Sisler was born near Newmarket, Ontario in 1869, into a family which had been Canadian for two generations. In 1889, he came west, working on C.P.R. construction during the summer, and attending the Winnipeg Collegiate Institute during the winter. After graduation, he taught for two years at Squirrel Creek School, then resigned to attend Trinity Medical College. Here he completed second year medicine with honours. He needed funds, however, to complete his medical course, so he withdrew and attended the Winnipeg Normal School to obtain a teaching certificate. He returned to Squirrel Creek School and while there decided to make teaching his career. Later, instead of returning to medical school, he enrolled at Wesley College (now the University of Winnipeg). Subsequently he taught in the Swedish settlement of New Stockholm, SK, where no English was spoken outside of school, and later at Old Kildonan, the first public school organized in Manitoba.

In 1905, Sisler was appointed principal of the new Strathcona School which was soon to be flooded with children of immigrants from all parts of Europe. Here he spent 16 splendid years guiding and molding members of diverse racial cultures into Canadian citizens. In 1921, he was appointed first principal of the new Isaac Newton School. In his book, Peaceful Invasion, written after his retirement, Mr. Sisler gave a graphic account of the task involved in teaching English to non-English pupils. At that time (1905) most educationalists considered it impossible to do so unless the teacher could speak and write the mother tongue of the pupils under her/his care. Mr. Sisler was convinced that good results could be attained by the “direct method” of teaching a new language, and that it could be done by teachers who had no knowledge of the home language of the students.

This method involved utilizing concrete words which could be illustrated by pictures or actions and building up gradually a vocabulary or words and short sentences most needed in conversation. Concurrently, a full program of music, crafts and sports was carried along and closely related to the work of reading and language. Mr. Sisler died in August, 1956 at the age of 86.

Built: 1957

• Opened: September 23, 1957

• Cornerstone: July 3, 1957 by Mr. R.H. John’s

• Official Opening: November 20, 1957

• Contractor: Arlington Builders

• Contract: $702,271 (actual cost $832,125)

• No. of rooms: 26 class rooms, 4 labs (science), 3 sc. cl. rooms, 1 music room, 1 art room, 1 cooking room, 1 sewing room, 1 library and work room, 1 aud. & gym, 2 directors’ rooms, 1 medical room, 1 principal office, 1 secretary’s office, 1 vice-principal’s office, 1 supply room, 2 counsellors’ offices, 2 mark. rooms, 1 janitor’s room, 1 female janitor’s room, 1 fitting room, 1 storage room, 2 ventilating equipment rooms, 2 slop sink rooms, 1 caretakers’ supply room & slop sink, 6 wash rooms, 2 dressing rooms, 1 equipment room, 1 kitchen in auditorium, 1 male and 1 female staff room. Basement: boiler room, switchroom, transforoomer vault bock storage, storage room toilets

Addition: January 1958

• Contractor: Arlington Builders

• Cost: $89,123

• No. of rooms: 2 shower rooms, general shop for 3 classes, 2 home economic rooms, 1 office and tool storage, 1 class not quite as big as the standard classroom

Addition: 1961

• Opening: September 1, 1961

• Occupied: September 1, 1961

• Contractor: Winnipeg Construction Co.

• Contract: $360,835 (actual cost $376,135)

• No. of rooms: 11 classrooms, 2 science rooms, 1 music room., 1 shop, 1 foods lab., 1 clothing lab., 1 gym

Addition: August 28, 1964

• Extension: September 19, 1964

• Contractor: Imperial Construction Ltd.

• Contract: $322,197 (actual cost $354,104)

• No. of rooms: 6 classrooms, 3 typing rooms, 1 language lab for 75 students, 1 bookkeeping room, 1 music room, 1 lunch room, alterations to existing building

Industrial Arts 4,030 square foot addition:

• Opened: 1992

• Contractor: Central Canadian Structures

• Cost: $400,000

Major Addition 2004/05

• Opened: 2004 and 2005

• Contractor: Regent Construction

• Architect: LM Architectural Group

• Cost: $4,600,000

• No. of Rooms: Gym, Administration Offices, Science and Computer Lab (23,000 square feet) and Renovations: Library, MPR, Offices and Life Skills (22,000 square feet).

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