In February 1883, a new, four-room school opened on Grey Street – although the front door of the school actually faced Hamilton Road. This school replaced an earlier public school on Colborne Street.
As the school-age population in the neighborhood increased, four more rooms were added on a south wing and a cottage on the property was turned into a kindergarten.
When Lord Aberdeen, Governor-General of Canada, (a.k.a. John Campbell Hamilton Gordon of Edinburgh, Scotland), visited London in 1893, the Board of Education decided to rename the Hamilton Road school in his honor.
Two years later, principal George Kirk opened a Girls’ Night School at Aberdeen – to help working girls further their education. The students met twice a week from January through March and September through November, according to school historian John Maycock. The first class of 24 girls included 19 domestics, two office assistants and three factory workers. Because the enrolment at Aberdeen Public continued to grow, in 1896 two more rooms were built on the west side of the school. There were now ten teachers plus Mr. Kirk on the Aberdeen staff.
The public school received more attention in 1901 when it became a Model School. This meant Aberdeen was used as a training ground for future teachers – the reason was that principal George Kirk had a First Class Teaching Certificate and at least three of his staff members boasted Second Class Certificates. The prospective teachers worked in various classes at Aberdeen from Grades one to eight. The apprentices were graded on such skills as “Power of Teaching” and “Power of Discipline.” If their marks were satisfactory, the future instructors were awarded a Third Class Certificate and could head off to teaching careers of their own.
By 1913, the staff and students at Aberdeen Public School had simply outgrown their 30-year old schoolhouse. The Board of Education trustees approved construction of a new, 16-room school, which this time would face Grey Street. The noted architectural firm of Watt and Blackwell came up with a design that included 13 classrooms, a commodious kindergarten-assembly room, and manual training and domestic science labs.
The official opening of Soho’s handsome new school was held on Friday, Feb. 6, 1914 at 8 p.m. Choirs from the school entertained with such hits of the day as The Clange of the Forge and The Guards of Acadia. The next Monday morning, boys on the left and girls on the right, filed into the new school at 580 Grey Street.
Because the new manual training and domestic science (later called home economics) labs were so exceptional, students from Governor Simcoe Public School, on Simcoe Street west of Wellington, came to Aberdeen for those subjects. Aberdeen Public also offered special classes for Russian immigrants who had moved into the Soho community and for Jewish students.
Despite moving into a new school, 1914 proved to be a tragic year at Aberdeen. Student deaths in the early 1900s, before the advent of grief counselors, were common in public schools. Four members of the senior kindergarten class died that year. Their deaths might have been caused by influenza or diseases like smallpox or scarlet fever. However, the Aberdeen School registers for the period contain frequent references to tuberculosis and mentions of students being sent to “the sanatorium.” That was the Queen Alexandra Sanatorium in Byron – now the location of the Children’s Psychiatric Research Institute (CPRI).
For a detailed history, read Memories of Rods and Lines, by John Maycock, the official school history, published c1983.