Tomorrow I’ll make my first school visit of the year and I’m looking forward to being with kids again. This won’t be a long visit, it’s for first grade students only, and it’s local. The school is Rountree Elementary, named after one of Springfield’s early settlers in the late 1820s and early 1830s. The original school was a crude affair by today’s standards. Today its location is remembered by a marker erected on the site. I found this description in an article titled:
History of Greene County, Missouri
R. I. Holcombe, Editing Historian
The first school house was built in 1832. It was of small logs and stood where is now the old Christian church (used at present as a private residence), on the north side of College street, a little west of Main, and near where Gen. Lyon’s general headquarters were, and where his dead body lay. But the first school house attended by children who then lived on the present site was built in 1831, and was also of small logs. Of this school house, John H. Miller says it stood a mile and a quarter west of town, and the first teacher was old uncle Joe Rountree; the pupils were Henry Fulbright and some of his younger brothers, the Rountree boys, John Miller, J. J. Weaver, and his two older sisters, Louisiana, late wife of Col. C. A. Haden, and Jane, mother of Joe Farrier, and a few others. The school house had a good dirt floor, and one log, cut out for a window, no door or shutter. Here they learned to spell, read, write and cipher in Pike’s arithmetic, on three-legged benches. Mr. Miller says the old school house on College street had a loose plank floor, a door shutter, a mud-and-stick chimney, and then the builders thought that in the matter of school house architecture they had nearly reached the top round of the ladder of civilization, and the Ruskins of that day were greatly delighted with the beautiful effect produced.
Rountree Elementary School is special to me for two other reasons. My wife Sandy and daughter Robin both attended school there.
The other day when I was signing at Barnes & Noble a young boy stopped by with his parents. He was wearing a t-shirt that said, Harrison Huskies on it. He’s in 4th grade at the school that bears my name. Other Harrison students, present and past, also came to say hello. Each and every time I meet a young person who tells me he or she goes to Harrison I’m thrilled all over again. The school opened in 2009 so by now there are many Harrison graduates around the city and it’s not unusual for someone to tell me they used to go there.
I always visit David Harrison Elementary at least once every year and sometimes take visitors there so they can see the school. Many were there for the grand opening when I gave a speech. Kent and Jody Brown flew in from Highlights to be there. So did my pal Deanna Schuler from Warrensburg. My family was there, including my mother who was in a wheel chair by then.
In the eight years since the school opened the oldest students at the time are now seniors in high school. Soon they will be spreading their wings, flying off to college or to jobs, marriage, life. Wherever I go around town in public places, I stand a little straighter, wondering if someone in the room went to “my” school. Not many people get turned into buildings. Believe me, we buildings are always aware of the privilege we’ve been given.
Do you have any idea how I love typing the name of that school? On Thursday I attended an assembly at which the Missouri State University In-School Players, under the direction of Michael Frizell, himself a well known, gifted, and professional actor, performed materials selected from my poetry and stories for young people. It was a WOW on a scale of 10.
Sandy attended with me. The kids waved and grinned. Many came up later for hugs and high-fives and hurried whispers. It does not get better than that.
Thank you, Michael. Thank you, In-School Players: Nick Oswalt, Cassidy Flynn, Lyric Arvizu, Zoe Zelonky, Kendrick Hooks, Annie Lewis Lay, Melanie Humphrey, Hannah Katherine Green, and Sarah Rebottaro.
A special thanks to Harrison principal Christine Mendel. Chris, you always make me feel welcome.
Today is a good day for me. I’ll visit Robberson Community School, Springfield’s first year around elementary school, to talk to grades 3-5 students from 10:15-10:45 and K-2 students from 10:55-11:20.
From 1:00-1:45 the Missouri State University IN-SCHOOL PLAYERS will perform a play based on the body of my work as part of this year’s 16-school tour.
My thanks to Community School Coordinator Christian Mechlin and Principal Kevin Huffman for arranging my visit to Robberson and to MSU’s Michael Frizell for working with the IN-SCHOOL PLAYERS. I look forward to the day!