Vernon Secondary School principal Morris Vardabasso (from left)

Vernon Secondary School principal Morris Vardabasso (from left)

VSS students say goodbye

Open house Thursday for all former students and staff of VSS

There’s old yearbooks to be had. Grad photos. School uniforms. Pieces of the gym floor.

And then there’s the bricks.

Vernon Secondary School is saying goodbye to the structure on 18th Street that has been its home for the past 45 years with a special open house Thursday, Nov. 22, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

The school is, of course, making way for the new Vernon Secondary, being built on the current site, which will open after the Christmas holidays in January.

“VSS is celebrating the closing of the old school, 45 years of history, of memories, and opening the new school,” said current VSS principal Morris Vardabasso of the open house. “It will be the last time you get to see the bricks intact, the pictures and the memorabilia.

“Come share some time with fellow grads, former teachers and parents, and celebrate what we have had here for 45 years before it gets torn down.”

The school opened in 1968, with the first graduating class celebrating in June 1969. Vernon Senior Secondary, as it was known then, featured Grades 11 and 12 and stayed that way until 1984.

The school structure changed in September 1984, with the school becoming Vernon Secondary with students from Grades 8 to 12, as it is now.

Since it opened, Vardabasso estimates tens of thousands of people have gone through the hallowed hallways.

Perhaps what the school is best known for is its bricks, and specially manufactured bricks will be available for sale at the open house as well as online.

“They will be manicured bricks, nicely cut, that you can put on your mantle or your desk,” said Vardabasso. “You can order a brick with a plaque on it that will have your name and the year you graduated or the years you taught at the school.”

Former Vernon Secondary Panther athletes will have a chance to order pieces of the gym floor. Again, you’ll be able to get a plaque with your name, the teams you played on and the years you played.

Athletes will also have a chance to become part of a new Wall of Fame that will be housed in the new school, but to be inducted, you must come to the open house or by ordering a piece of the floor online.

Funds raised from the sale of bricks, gym floor pieces and silent auction items, which include old uniforms, trophies, and black-and-white photos, will go to the VSS scholarship and legacy programs.

A barbecue will also be held featuring hamburgers and hot dogs, and commemorative T-shirts – old style and funky – will be on sale for $10.

Former students who didn’t get a yearbook for whatever reason will be excited to learn that there are lots of leftover yearbooks, and they will be available during the open house, as well as grad year photos.

For Vardabasso, along with teachers Debbie Meyer and Mike Sawka, and head secretary Lynn Inkster, moving to the new school brings about excitement along with some sadness.

All four are graduates of the old VSSS.

“It’s really quite an honour to have graduated from here in 1974 to be leading the school as it gets set to close,” said Vardabasso.

Meyer (née Sorensen), who teaches computer, grad transition and planning, met her husband as a VSS student.

“To be able to be a teacher here is a great honour,” said Meyer. “I started working with teachers who taught me when I was a student.”

Inkster (née King, Class of ‘72) joked that she stayed well away from the office she now works at everyday.

“It’s going to be very sad to leave here, but we’re excited to be moving to a new school,” said Inkster. “The Nov. 22 is going to be a great time.”

Added Sawka (Grad ‘82 who, unlike Inkster, did spend a lot of time in the office, he said): “I did my practicum here and I’ve taught here for 17 years, it’s really the only school I know,” said Sawka. “It’s sentimental for me because of all of the history. It’s been an excellent experience.”

There will be guided tours of the old school or people are encouraged to wander the hallways themselves for a trip down memory lane.

Entrance to the open house is through the school’s main doors, and there will be a sign-in table.

For more information on the open house, or to order bricks, gym floor pieces or T-shirts online, visit