Suzanne Lilly has been waiting to celebrate a big birthday for a long time.
But it’s not her own: Bedford Park Public School is turning 100.
“We’ve been waiting for it for years because we knew it was coming up,” Lilly, 59, said. “We’ve all stayed in touch. Our Bedford Park friends are our best friends.”
The Yonge and Lawrence area school community, with help from parents and volunteers, has planned events throughout the year and is selling Bedford Park P.S. merchandise in anticipation of its official birthday in September. Celebrations will be topped off with a final weekend of festivities in the fall that will bring together current students and alumni.
The school opened in 1911 to serve a growing community of young people in the Bedford Park area. The land was purchased in 1889 by Philip W. Ellis, a wealthy businessman who envisioned the development of 1,500 bungalows and a large local industry.
Throughout the years, the school has produced numerous prominent Canadians, including former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario John Tory and former President of the University of Toronto, Robert S. Prichard.
Alumni and current students have organized themselves into an online database in order to stay in touch with celebration updates. A Facebook group has also been started and already includes more than 100 followers.
The school’s principal, Esther Leung Tou, says the school’s long history brings with it traditional values, but she wants to see a progressive shift come to the school’s educational experience.
“I’d love to take it to a higher level in terms of technology,” Leung Tou said. “I think on the outside we’re very traditional, but I’d like us, in terms of the students, to be really forward thinking.”
For alumni like Lilly, the opportunity to get in touch with old friends online is a welcome one.
“We’re all madly working behind the scenes trying to find a lot of missing people,” Lilly said. “A few people that I haven’t seen since Bedford Park have sent me emails and we’ve reconnected.”