Friday, October 2, 2015

Fast Times At Valley High

I grew up in rural Iowa and spent most of my primary education during or after the farm crisis which drove many of the rural residents into the cities. As a result, our schools were small and our class sizes even smaller. When many people find out that I graduated high school with only seven other people in my class (and yes all of us did graduate), they often ask if I went to a one room school house. I of course didn't, but the three story brick building that housed our 6th through 12th grades, had plenty of room for the 70 to 80 students plus staff.

My parents attended the same school back when class sizes were closer to 50 in size and even back then, it was considered a small enough school that there was always talk of closing it and merging it with neighboring county wide school districts. (The town I grew up near is right on the border between two counties.) As I attended school there years later, there was always talk of merging with neighboring districts but it never happened. Finally though it did happen and the school was torn down in 2006 and the lot sold, ironically to a boy who rode my school bus when I was a junior and senior in school and he was in kindergarten and first grade.

Last year, I discovered there was a Facebook group for graduates of that high school and I joined. Going through past posts, I found these two pictures shown here. The first one above is almost how I remember my time during school. The seniors used the lockers at the far end of the balcony though in my day, they were full length lockers and not as many of them as in this photo. Since we only used eight of them, the rest went to juniors and everyone else had lockers up on the third floor. Since I rode a rural bus, I got to school early so that the buses could do the town routes. With lots of time to kill, I would toss my bag in the locker and sit/lean on the railing in front of the double doors with the exit sign over the top. From that position, I could see everything going on and talk to people as they arrived to school. Eventually others would join us and in the minutes before classes started, pretty much all the upper classmen (9th through 12th grades) would be standing/leaning on the railing in groups talking about whatever. The 6th through 8th graders all had to stay in their classrooms.

The picture below is of the same area during the initial stages of deconstruction of the school. I'm guessing they must have knocked the roof in before taking this picture. It's kind of sad to see someplace you still could probably navigate blindfolded even after all these years torn apart and in a state of disrepair. Up until I saw these pictures, the school had been there and then one day it wasn't. It was kind of like tearing off a bandaid fast, a brief but quickly fading pain. Pictures of the demolition are more like pulling off the bandaid slowly.


Kelly said...

This post stirs up emotions that I quickly need to bury again. While I understand the need for school consolidation in some cases, bigger doesn't always mean better. (There is often a lot of politics behind the policy) My three kids were blessed to spend the majority of their school years in a small K-12 school, though the last two did not get to finish there before it was closed. *sigh*

sage said...

Yes, as Kelly says, there are emotions to these photos. I have tried to find photos of my elementary school, Bradley Creek, which was torched by an arsonist in 1982... It was the school where Mr. Biggs, whom I recently wrote about, taught. They rebuilt the school on a different site and it doesn't look at all like the brick school with high ceilings and hardwood floors and a huge auditorium.

Ed said...

Kelly - I completely agree.

Sage - The modern day schools I have seen just aren't built like those old ones were.

Vince said...

It's hard to know. You keep doing the 'on this hand - on the other hand'. I believe there is a sweet number when teaching kids. And I think a very good place to find out what that number is, is to look at the ratios in high end private schools. But, we then have to deal with the requirements of getting value for money for all citizen's. However, when private prisons analyse the literacy rates of ten years old's today to predict the prison profit fifteen years hence and onwards. You'd have to locically conclude a penny spent today is better than an infinate amount later.
On your school, sometimes things are outdated and need to be removed from the system. But why didn't one of the church groups buy it. You have a plethora of little private church schools in your area don't you ?.

Leigh said...

Very interesting post. I agree that bigger doesn't mean better, but I suppose it's more cost effective. I just wish less of their savings went to administrative salaries and perks.

Ed said...

Vince - That happens in bigger towns but this one is so small, it was just way too much building for even the largest of churches in our town to afford. Generally what happens to them is either the city buys them and turn them into some sort of artist commune or public events building, or a private citizen buys it for storing their excess junk in them. In this case, neither happened and so it was torn down.

Leigh - I've always thought it depended on the intelligence level of the child. If your child is not intellectually gifted, a small school is great because they get lots of individualized attention. If your child is gifted, then they are going to be short changed because they find themselves with few options to really maximize their potential. I was in this latter group and it really hurt me when I got to college.