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Chasing schools

By Nancy Christofferson
HUERFANO- It’s no wonder the practice of sending children to school to learn how to read was started! The poor kids had to know to read just to find the school!
In 1931, the Walsenburg World gave the following instructions. All 7th and 8th grade students should report for classes in the junior high building. All 5th and 6th graders were to go to Hill School. Kindergarteners through 4th graders also were to go to Hill, UNLESS they lived south of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad tracks, and if they did, they were to go to Seventh Street School. Now, 2nd through 4th graders who resided, well, you get the drift. And remember, if these children lived too far west of downtown Walsenburg, they were living in Walsen Camp, which had its own school, and, for a few years, two schools, but if they were too far south of Walsen then they went to Cameron School. And there were also the children from all over the city and the coal camps bound for St. Mary elementary and high schools.
Directions only got worse in 1936 when the old Washington School of the 1880s was torn down to be rebuilt as a much larger structure by the Works Progress Administration. Classes had to be reapportioned to various empty rooms.
The high schoolers had their own problems. The first high school classes were in 1892 with four students enrolled with one teacher, H.H. Brodie. Registration ballooned in 1893 when five showed up, and in 1894, 11. Space was not, therefore, an issue. In 1906 classes met in Odd Fellows Hall on W. 6th Street. Hill School was built in 1907 and some room, or, as the newspaper put it, “two rooms in the west side of the east half of the basement in the new building” were dedicated for the high school. Forty enrolled, so this space quickly became inadequate, resulting in classes being moved to the Armory, but the Armory burned down in 1917 so the upper grades went back to being homeless. At first it was thought to send them back to Hill, but the school board made arrangements to rent the old Pythian Temple on North Main, and there the kids met until the “new” high school opened in 1920.
In La Veta, things were usually simpler, but not always. In September 1911, for instance, there were more choices. Instructions for these children were for the 1st and 2nd graders to go to the room rented for classes in the Elkhorn Furniture Store. The 3rd and 4th graders were to head for the west room in the Red Brick School, though the 5th and 6th grade classes would be held in the Commercial Club rooms on Ryus Avenue. The high school students, along with the 7th and 8th grades, were to go to the east room of the Red Brick. The confusion was caused by the school building itself, which had four large classrooms on two floors, but the second floor had proved dangerously fragile in high winds and nearly impossible to heat, so class time was suspended up there and the kids were sent off willy nilly around the town.
These arrangements swiftly changed. By the beginning of October, students were directed to “the little school building,” which had just been completed on Virginia Street, if they were in 1st or 2nd, and the 3rd and 4th graders were to go to the furniture store. The overrun of the high school students should report to Mrs. Springer’s store room on Ryus. Right.
So no wonder the kids had to learn how to read. Or, maybe their parents just walked them to school, if they knew where it was.