A teacher and her charges gather near Sawyer School in this undated photograph, courtesy of the late Katherine Cochran. The school was located north of Fruitland. (Southeast Missourian archive)
At the beginning of the 1948-49 school year, the Southeast Missourian started publishing photographs of first-year pupils in the various schools in Cape Girardeau.
The newspaper soon expanded its photographic series to include Cape Girardeau County schools, big and small. This probably was a reflection of one of the hot topics of the day: school consolidation.
Senate Bill 307 was passed by the Missouri Legislature in 1947. It mandated the re-organization of rural school districts. But the plans for each individual county had to be approved by its voters. In Cape Girardeau County a plan was put forward by the county's Board of Education in October the following year. It recommended that the 80 (!) school districts in the county be consolidated into three, with high schools located at Jackson, Delta and Cape Girardeau.
Here's how that plan was presented in the Oct. 14, 1948, Southeast Missourian:
SCHOOL REDISTRICTING IN COUNTY RECOMMENDED
The Cape County board of Education, appointed two months ago to study and suggest a plan of consolidation for the school districts of the county, recommended at a meeting Wednesday night at Jackson that —
1. The 80 separate school districts in the county be reduced to three —
2. Jackson, Delta and Cape Girardeau be the headquarter communities and the high school centers, and —
3. Elementary school centers be established in communities surrounding those high school locations with a minimum disturbance of present facilities.
The establishment of the three districts was made flexible, so there could be slight adjustments of present schools should a need be shown.
The county board's recommendation is dependent upon approval first by the State Board of Education and later by a vote of the people in each of the districts to determine if they wish to be included in the enlarged district.
Before making its decision to establish three districts, the board adopted a set of general principles under which to operate.
Need large valuation
The six members agreed that the minimum assessed valuation for any district operating a high school should be $1,500,000, with $1,750,000 as a safer operating assessment. It was deemed essential that in redistricting, every child in Cape County should be in a district operating a high school.
Before proposing to set Jackson, Delta and Cape Girardeau as the high school centers, the board determined that they are able to care for all of the youngsters in the county, and that they could be used with a minimum disturbance of the present high school attendance arrangement. That is, that children now going to a certain high school should still be included in that district.
Elementary schools posed a problem, which was solved by agreement that they should be established in various community centers throughout the enlarged districts.
Set for grade schools
The tentatively established grade schools in the district, subject to possible additions are: Jackson — Burfordville, Millersville, Fruitland, Gordonville, Daisy, Oak Ridge and possibly Tilsit; Delta — Randles, Whitewater, Crump and Delta; Cape Girardeau — Campster, Egypt Mills and Cape Girardeau.
Under this arrangement, present buildings in these communities outside the newly created high school centers would continue to be operated.
Pupils from discontinued grade schools would be transported to the nearest community center school. The arrangement was perfected with the idea in mind that lower grade children should be in a school as near their homes as possible.
As a possibility the board suggested that after children reach junior high school level it might be desirable to transport them to junior high school centers. Members pointed out that a junior high drawing children from a larger area can provide more adequate curriculum and activities than if children were kept in the smaller community schools.
There is a possibility that an arrangement may be worked out with the Perry County and Bollinger County boards whereby present school districts on county boarders may be shifted to the jurisdiction of a board in another county.
The suggestions for community grade school locations to serve their surrounding area were left on a tentative basis. Final decision will be made only after additional conferences with various school people in the area affected.
A considerable part of this decision hinges on transportation, and the desire of county board members that smaller children not have a long ride on school buses. Condition of school buildings is another factor.
Consider high school
Before reaching a decision to establish the Jackson district, the board seriously considered the effect on the Oak Ridge district, which now maintains a high school. If the reorganization plan outlined Wednesday night is adopted, high school pupils would be transported to Jackson and the Oak Ridge high school eliminated.
Members pointed out that one of the principal reasons for reorganization is economy. They felt that there would be less than 100 pupils in the high school at Oak Ridge, despite an enlarged district, and that the state board would not approve a district with so few pupils.
Members noted the beneficial effect reorganization will have on pupils in present rural areas. With enlarged districts, they said, it would be possible to give pupils in elementary schools instruction in music, speech, home economics, vocational agriculture, shop and other subjects impossible to teach now.
They observed, too, that the difficulties of rural pupils without this background when they come to a high school would be remedied. There would be none of the extra preparation now necessary to catch up with pupils who have already had these subjects in city schools.
Members of the board, all of whom were present, are: Prof. A.C. Magill of Cape Girardeau, John Haupt of Whitewater Township, J.C. Hoffmeister of Jackson, Lawrence Kuehle of Hubble Township, Delos Seabaugh of Apple Creek Township and Hobert Kight of Welch Township. Prof. Magill is president of the board.
SUGGESTED DISTRICTS UNDER CONSOLIDATION
Following are the school districts which would go into the three enlarged districts if a tentative proposal of the County Board of Education is adopted:
Egypt Mills, Brooks, Coker, Juden, Kage, Campster, Marquette, Abernathy and Pecan Grove.
Hickory Grove, Crump, Maple Grove, Council Ridge, Stroderville, Whitewater, Dutchtown, Blomeyer, Allenville, Collins-Moore, Oak Valley (Round Pond), Arbor (Hickory Ridge), Rum Branch (Green Cox), Randles and Delta.
High Hill, New Wells, Shawneetown, Buckeye, Old Appleton, Apple Creek Valley, Arnsberg, Hilderbrand, Critesville, Daisy, Goshen, Liberty No. 1, Pocahontas, Oak Hill, Sheppard, Iona, Indian Creek, Horrell, Schoenebeck, Clippard, Fulbright, Old Salem, Kurreville, Niswonger, Rieman, Millersville, Big Springs, Roberts, McFerron, Clover Hill, Plainview, Randol, Williams, Cain Creek, Link, Stroder, Gravel Hill, Burfordville, Sandy Ridge, Oak Grove, Poplar Grove, Tilsit, Helderman, Poplar Ridge, Liberty No. 2, Gordonville, Needmore, Fruitland, Brick, Roe, Hartle and Oak Ridge.
Next week's blog will discuss the proposed elimination of the high school at Oak Ridge and the results of the first consolidation election.
A photo gallery of the first-year pupils from Cape Girardeau may be viewed here.
Likewise, a photo gallery of Cape Girardeau County schools is here.
In both cases, it should remembered that the images were copied from microfilm and are not the best quality. None of the negatives from either gallery have survived.