As a retired schoolteacher, I’m continually fascinated by early public education. Mostly, it’s made me feel lucky to have taught in these modern times – no emptying the coal scuttle daily or whittling nibs for the next day’s lessons. Recently, I had occasion during one of the blizzards to curl up with a good book, in this case a small tome entitled “The History of Pioneer Wheat Ridge,” authored by the Historical Committee (precursor to the Wheat Ridge Historical Society) in 1971. Chapter three was devoted to the history of schools in this area.
As I read through descriptions of the really early days – one-room schools open only a few weeks at a time – the mantra “Whew! I’m glad to be living now,” began to play in my head. The newly-formed WR District #8 opened its first school in a house in 1868 at 32nd and Wadsworth, for 16 weeks (or until funds ran out). By 1873 a new one-room school was erected at 38th and Teller, where Wheat Ridge Junior High School was later built.
Then I got to the passage where, early in 1889, 21 local voters petitioned the school board, stating that the size and accommodations at the present school did not meet the demands of “a good school,” and they wanted a new one. The board wasted no time in finding an appropriate plot of land and planned “the timely construction of a good, substantial and commodious building to meet the entire wants of the district.”
After securing an $8,000 bond, the school board went about selling the old building and constructing a new two-story building with a central entrance and four classrooms on each floor.
The new brick building cost $8,949.21 and opened in November 1889 on a six-month schedule. Newly hired teachers were Mrs. Morrison, paid $40 a month, and Miss Perkins, $50 a month. Then, just to be safe, the board instituted “Rules Governing Pupils,” which included some rules we would do well to support these days. They included:
1. No pupil having any contagious disease shall be received or continued in school.
2. Every pupil is expected to attend school regularly, conform to the rules, be diligent in study, respectful to teachers, and refrain entirely from the use of profane or improper language. Any neglect or refusal to comply with these requirements shall render the pupil liable to suspension.
3. Pupils guilty of defacing or injuring school property shall pay in full for all damages.
4. All pupils on their way to and from school must refrain from entering or molesting private property and from improper conduct toward each other.
5. Any pupil who may be aggrieved or wronged by another pupil may report the fact to the teacher. No pupil, in any case, shall be permitted to avenge his or her own wrongs.
6. No pupil shall be permitted to loiter or play in the public road.
7. Pupils shall leave the school premises directly after being dismissed.
Come to think of it, some adults today might think about adopting some of those rules.