By the early 1960’s the population in the six mile area had increased enough that there was a desperate need for a new school to be built. On April 16, 1962 School District #7 purchased a 5.7 acre property next to Duhamel Creek from Mr. Cecil W. Ramsden and Herbert W.R. Ramsden for approximately $8000.00. The land was forested with huge cedar trees and being on the old creek bed, was full of rocks. Eric Denny, a local, was hired to clear the land and Burt Carlson from Ymir was hired to level and prepare the site for construction. The building of the new school began in 1963. Some of the local students had to be bused into Nelson’s Hume School (they were set up in the gymnasium) as the new school was not ready for opening until November of 1963.
The new school had two classrooms, two small washrooms, a principal’s office, a secretary’s office, a medical room and a furnace room. Willow Point School continued to house primary grades. Many of the first students at A.I. Collinson remember “picking rocks” to prepare the grounds for a field. Physical Education at its best! There were still huge piles of stumps on the grounds which they were warned not to climb on. These piles were eventually burned.
The school was named after Arthur Ivan Collinson who worked as a janitor, engineer, and maintenance supervisor in Nelson schools starting in 1923. He was the Maintenance Supervisor for all of School District #7 from 1947 until his retirement in 1958.
A 1965 a Nelson Daily News article reports that the cost to build the school was $39,050. It also states that there were now 142 pupils and 4 teachers and that the principal is Mr. D.R. Fawcett.
By 1966 the school was again busting at the seams. Some of the students were bused to Proctor School. An addition of two more classrooms, a gym, a kitchen, a staff room, a learning assistance room, and a storage room was completed in 1967.
In 1971 two more classrooms were added and by the next year the population was growing so fast that a portable classroom had to be brought to the school.
In 1987 the Willow Point School was closed and another portable building was brought to the A.I. Collinson grounds for use by the kindergarten students.
In 1988 yet a third addition to the school was approved: the gymnasium was enlarged and the portables were replaced by two more classrooms.
The population growth of the area reached a peak and stabilized in the mid 1990’s. Then a slow decline in the area’s school aged children began and by 2007 the school’s enrollment had dwindled to just over 60 students in grades K-5. After four decades of operation the school district announced that A.I. Collinson would be one of three schools in the district to be closed. The Parent Advisory Council and the parents put in an effort to try and save the school and there was some talk of trying to make it into a community center however nothing came of either effort.
A Farewell Celebration was held on June 19, 2008 at the school. The program included a potluck dinner, music, entertainment by the last A.I. Collinson students, cake cutting, and the sharing of memories by former students, parents and teachers. Mrs. M. Hunter, the final principal, offered words of encouragement to the last students of AIC and announced that the staff had purchased a star and named it A.I. Collinson. A few former principals and teachers recalled fond memories of their time at the school. The classrooms and hallways were filled with displays of memorabilia and children’s school work. A Memory DVD was put together by Ian Sherman with contributions from many who enjoyed the life of A.I. Collinson. It was played throughout the celebration and was available for purchase.
In 2010 the school was leased to School District 93 which administers French Education across B.C. Ecole des Sentiers-Alpins, which had operated out of the old Gordon Sargent School in Nelson for a few years, moved out to the AI Collinson site.
Article written by Patsy Ormond-May 2014.
Sources: School District 8 website; A.I.Collinson-History of AIC- 26/06/2008. Nelson Daily News clipping “Willow Point Grows With Times”; Jan. 25, 1965. Newspaper clipping “Longtime resident A.I. Collinson, dies”. Sharry Heighton-one of AIC’s first students.