The 20th Century Brings Change
The world was in the throes of revolution when the century turned in 1900. It was even more so as the second decade turned in 1920 with W.W. Thomas (at right) as Superintendent. The telegraph and steam locomotive of the last century were long ago commonplace. Trolley cars and telephones now belonged to the common people, and after 1910 many families owned automobiles. A new word "wireless" described the magic in the so called "Roaring Twenties." (See Timeline for more information.)
In this world of revolution the old method of education would no longer do and far-sighted educators knew it. Springfield's far-sighted educators and the public school's board of education accepted the change by adding manual training and industrial and vocational courses to the high school.
The Montessori and other preschools appeared as early as 1902 in Springfield. Early that year, the Society page of the local paper announced the opening of two kindergartens in the Central Congregational Church. A popular upper-class group of citizens supported the school by paying $1.00 a term. The morning students also paid; while the poor came for free in the afternoon. As many as 275 of the city's most elite citizen members paid dues. The kindergartens lasted a few years and then closed. Their equipment went to private schools as did the preschoolers who could afford them.
February, 1909, was a cold long month. Attendance at the schools was "good considering the weather." It was good enough for the WCTU (Women's Christian Temperance Union) to request the board to employ a Medical Instructor for the schools.
The first Teachers Training course appeared in the high school curriculum in the spring of 1913. Professor E. E. Dodd went to Columbia to acquaint himself with the course. Later, an appointed committee studied the establishment of a night school with manual training, mechanical drawing and other areas for young men employed in the day. Many adults enrolled in night, correspondence, and part-time schools even as societal and some ordinary female groups discussed women's suffrage.
The greatest change in early Twentieth Century education occurred in the home. For the first time parents faced the momentous decision of sending their children to high school. Formerly only children with classical or professional needs, mostly girls, went to high school. Things were different in the Twentieth Century. Going to high school became the right thing to do.
Even before additional high school students, Springfield's schools "never could quite keep up with the city's growth." Regardless of how many schools the city built, they were always over-crowded. This chronic condition caused Superintendent W. W. Thomas to recommend an experiment in junior high schools to relieve the overcrowding between grade and high school. Progressive educators agreed junior high schools might be an answer to the problem and began to study their feasibility.
Before Thomas proposed his innovative junior high plan, the board reminded its progressive superintendent of the big building program "already underway." It began in 1908 with the construction of the central section of the high school, and included the completion of the east section and boiler plant in 1913. The finished facility added stature and much needed space to the high school. The addition of the Manual Training building in 1917 completed the high school's construction until the addition of the gymnasium in 1931.
Pepperdine School was new in 1914 and the new Tefft replaced the old Boulevard School the same year. A rented one-room school building on Vernon Avenue served north side Negroes for three years beginning in 1910. Southside Douglas School on Market Avenue north of Grand Street housed Negroes too young to go as far as Lincoln School. Douglas closed when bus service to Lincoln became possible. (More on buildings.)
Renamed and relocated in 1883 from Drury's campus to Center Street and Washington Avenue, Lincoln graduated its first three members in 1888. Twenty years later, in 1907, Lincoln graduated 110 with 51 becoming teachers. Lincoln's proportion of 52 boys and 58 girls was noticeably different from the white high school that graduated mostly girls. By 1911, the Negro schools had ten teachers.
Lincoln School added classrooms in 1905, and 1910, and Manual Training and Domestic Science courses in 1916. These improvements sought to keep the school in unanimity or "equal but separate" to Senior High School. Two Negroes served on the school board. J. H. Stemmons was a member from 1894 to 1898, B. A. Hardrick was a faithful member from 1901 to 1907, seldom missing a meeting. Springfieldians remember Hardrick as a conscientious and civic-spirited man who served well both the public schools and his race.
During an election in 1917, voters decided 1,004 to 98 to provide free textbooks to all public school students.
The next year the board agreed to provide lessons in radio and buzzer work for "draft age men" to be held at Drury College because the high school had only alternating current. Compulsory vaccinations in the schools was a popular subject for every conversation. The city Commissioner of Health and Sanitation wanted vaccinations in the schools, but the board was against them. They reasoned "it would only lead to controversy which would have a tendency to disrupt the present serenity of the schools."
"The present serenity of the schools" in 1918 did not mean that overcrowded conditions did not exist. Space for students was a lasting problem. General interest in the junior high school plan continued, but the board was busy with the "big building program." Part of the program was the purchase of additional grounds at Berry and Waddill schools. The building and grounds superintendent reported old Rogers school on the north side was about to "fall down about the helpless heads of its pupils." Repair costs on Rogers School (for the sixth time) and some of the earlier buildings were more than the original cost of the buildings. (Old Campbell School is shown at right.)
A new school replaced the old Pickwick School on East Grand Street in 1916-17. It was renamed Rountree. Across town on West Atlantic another new school, Doling, like Rountree, had the first adjustable chairs and desks in Springfield's schools.
An engaging Scotchman, R. Ritchie Robertson, became supervisor of public school music in 1916. By organizing the largest Boy Scout Band in the World, he carved a place for himself in Springfield's history and that of the nation. His interest and taste in Springfield's music influenced students for years to come. He also left a lasting influence on the Boy Scouts of America. Robertson also organized the Girls Drum Corps in Senior high, believed to be the first such group in the country. The drum corps uniforms were made in Canada from material imported from Scotland. The group made its first appearance in a downtown parade on April 11, 1926.
Enrollment in the Springfield schools the year Robertson came was more than 8,000, or 300 greater than the year before.
The big news was America's entry in World War I. With Germany as our enemy, the board voted to discontinue German as a language in the high school. Springfield men suddenly left their jobs and entered training camps. Both men and women teachers for various reasons resigned in such numbers that a crisis threatened. The board raised teachers' salaries $20 to $200 a year. Many students and teachers had their attention diverted away from the classroom during 1917 and 1918 by thoughts of relatives and friends in military camps and on the war battlefields in Europe.
The war touched the public schools in many ways. For example, in April of 1917 there was a nationwide call for production of more food for the fighting troops. In answer to this call, the School Board agreed that boys who worked on farms until July 1 would be "allowed credits for the term equal to their standing at the time of leaving school." Those who worked at gardening in the community received a similar dispensation.
School business went on in spite of war in 1918 when a new administrative system with a supervisor of elementary education became a part of the public schools. The board also took over the management of the high school cafeteria. Soon after school began in the fall of 1918, World War I ended and teachers returned to the crowded classrooms.
Talk resumed about the overcrowded and unsafe buildings in need of repair. More talk about building junior high schools caused delegates from the PTA, and other citizens' groups, to petition the board to construct three such schools. The superintendent again presented the "6-3-3" grade organizational plan to replace the "8-4" plan to the board.
A 50 cent building levy passed in April, 1919, but the board needed more money to finance three junior high schools. Finally they agreed on a January 20 election date for an $8,000,000 bond issue. It failed. The determined board resubmitted the bond issue at $600,000 at the April 8, 1920 election. It carried.
Attention centered on the sites for the three junior high schools. In an effort to please every part of town, the board chose sites on the north, south and middle of the city. Those final sites were on Jefferson Avenue for the south side, on Campbell Avenue at Atlantic Street for the north, and one on North Boonville Avenue. Construction of Reed on the northside and Jarrett on the southside began in the summer of 1921. Only Jarrett and Reed Junior High Schools were ready to occupy in the fall of 1923. Construction on Pipkin Junior High School began a year later, but the money ran out and the work stopped. For two years the concrete framework and a part of the walls stood abandoned. The unfinished Pipkin School was an eyesore and disappointment to citizens passing by on Boonville Avenue, the most heavily traveled street in town.
In 1922, because of crowded conditions in the high school... enrollment was 2000...two sessions of classes were planned. The three upper classes met in the morning until 12:30 PM and the freshmen attended from 11 AM until 4 PM. The overcrowding was expected to be alleviated when the three new junior high schools were completed.
The 1923 student enrollment was considerable and it meant Springfield, the state's fourth largest city, would have its third largest school district with over 12,000 students. With a large increase of 1300 in enrollment the Board had to reactive old Phelps and Rogers schools which it had planned to abandon. All grade school children enrolled in the new junior high schools who were below the level of those schools were transferred back to Phelps and Rogers.
These crowded conditions were one of the first big challenges for Springfield's new Superintendent of Schools.