The village school

Texte traduit par Sylvie Durand-Valentin avec l’aimable collaboration de Mme Miriam Bastide.

Built in 1905 to meet the increase in the number of children enrolled in school, this first infant and junior school (groupe scolaire) of Saint Priest was particularly appreciated by the pupils who were too cramped on the ground floor of the old town hall. In addition, this new establishment, sought by the municipality under the Jules Ferry laws, would be able to open an infant class . . . Before 1905, the village school included two state classes of boys housed on the ground floor of the town hall and two private classes of girls, one at Montée de Robelly and the other in Rue du Vieux Puits, because traditionally families from Saint Priest sent boys to secular primary school and girls to religious school. Anxious to implement the 1881 and 1882 Ferry laws (free, compulsory and secular school), the town council decided to group the girls’ school with the boys’ school on the ground floor of the town hall. As this grouping together proved unsuitable because the premises were too small, the mayor, Antoine Barge, declared in June 1901, “that it is absolutely urgent to build schools for both sexes, the existing ones being quite inadequate.”

In 1903 it was decided to build an infant and junior school (groupe scolaire). It would comprise 4 classes of boys on the south side and 3 classes of girls on the north. The class on the ground floor would be assigned to the infants with a special entrance to the covered playground (préau) and the toilet. The teachers’ quarters would be located in a central wing separate from the classes. At that time there was no electricity (installed in 1912) or running water (installed in 1932). The site and orientation were wisely chosen because as it overlooked the houses of the village, the town hall and the main street, it was well-lit by big windows. A well would be sunk under the girls’ covered playground (préau) with water being supplied to the classes and the staff quarters by means of a pump. Until the 1950s this remarkable building was the only school that many inhabitants of Saint Priest were familiar with. The end of primary elementary education was at that time marked by a Certificate of Primary Education, abolished in 1989. Many of our seniors, with only this diploma, have enjoyed brilliant professional careers . . .