Old school, new school


I got to see the big reveal at the refurbished South Hamilton School recently. Believe me, it is an awesome place now. Wherever I looked, everything was new and clean and sleek and up to date and very functional to address the needs of students in this 21st century.

While I was there, of course I thought of my own high school years in the same school system. Those were the early years of reorganization, when a lot of tough decisions were being made as the school board and administrators felt their way along through new territory for everyone. Not every decision was popular, I’m sure.

School enrollment was much higher then, and one issue was where to hold classes until a new building could be erected. So, for years until a bond issue could be passed and a new building erected, all high school students in the district went to Jewell, where we attended classes in the school buildings there that were originally the Jewell Lutheran College. That college was in operation in the early 1900s, and by the mid-1960s the buildings were tired, worn, and very crowded for the numbers that were there.

While this recent remodeling was underway, I learned middle school students had to walk across the street for some classes in the elementary building. When I was in high school, we had to walk outside between two buildings daily for our classes, regardless of the weather. Band was in a third building. And the buildings were old and quite unsafe.

Of course almost everyone believes they had it worse than anyone ever when they were in school, and I admit that was on my mind when I heard about these students today going outside to change classes on a temporary basis.

Next what came to mind was the generations before me who were educated in country schools with facilities much more crude than when I was in school–simple wooden buildings with no running water and heated in the winters by a stove in the middle of the room. Yes, I had to walk outside to change classes in all weather, but in the early years of country school students and teachers regularly walked miles just to get to school. Yet we all got an educational foundation good enough to move ahead with our lives.

It would be easy to be jealous of these sleek, modern, high-tech new school facilities, especially since IBM Selectric typewriters were the closest thing to high tech in my high school. To succeed today, though, students need to know and use technology. And there’s plenty of it in this renovated school and others everywhere.

So I’m certainly not going to say the phrase I’ve often heard: “We didn’t have all this, and I turned out just fine.”