History of the School

History of the School

In the 1880's, Katherine Lang Durnhan taught the Island children in her home. In 1888 the City of Toronto decided to open a school on the Island. The city gave the land at no cost to the school board to build a one room school house near the Gibraltar Lighthouse. The first teacher, Miss Clark, had sixteen students and earned $345.00 . Sometimes the school was closed because not many people lived on the island during the winter months. In 1896 the school was made permanent. The teacher had one teacher, Miss Helyer, and a  caretaker, Mr Durnhan, who was also the lighthouse keeper.

In 1909, it was decided to move the school, but before they could move it, on May 24, it burned to the ground. It was suspected that someone had set fire to the school house on purpose. Fortunately, the fireboat' “Nelly Bly”, prevented the neighbouring houses from also being burned.

A new school was built and opened in September 1909. That year there were 52 children in attendance.

In 1921, the number of pupils had doubled and there was a space problem. The School Board wanted to build a new school closer to Ward Island but land was of a premium. Instead, the Board added another room to the existing building. The number of students attending steadily increased, so more rooms were added in 1932. After World War II, more people began to live on Ward’s and Algonquin Islands because of a house shortage in the city.  Once again, more rooms were added in the 1940’s and in 1953.  By 1954, there were 630 students attending Island Public School.

In 1956, Metropolitan Toronto Park’s Department decided to create a park system on the island resulting in the tear down of houses on Centre Island and Hanlan’s Point.  The enrollment dropped dramatically and in 1960, as a means to utilize the extra space, the residential Natural Science School Programme began.

The ground breaking for a new Island School was held on November 21, 1997. The new IPNSS was opened in April 1999.

The new Island Public/Natural Science School operates a day school programme from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 6, a residential natural science programme for visiting grade 5/6 students each week, and the Gibraltar Point Day Nursery for 19 pre-school age children.

In 2024 IPNSS will mark 25 years of operation of the new Island School facility at 30 Centre Island Park. It's current principal Gary Pieters is incredibly proud of the role of this fine facility in inspiring learning excellence in the publicly funded education system in Ontario.