Open house part of closing chapter of Schultz School

Monday, May 6, 2002

About 50 former and present students, teachers and administrators from L.J. Schultz School gathered Sunday with friends and family members to celebrate the building's 88-year history.

Throughout the afternoon they toured the school, watched a video slide show about the school and shared their memories over punch and a cake with a picture of the school made out of frosting.

"May 24 will be the very last day with students," said principal Lee Gattis. "But this building will always hold a dear place in our hearts."

Next year the building will not be used because of the Cape Girardeau School District's reconfiguration of grades five through 12.

"My father was so proud of this building," said John L. Schultz, son of Louis J. Schultz for whom the building is named. "You have mixed feelings about it, but my father was always in favor of having the best facilities for the students."

Louis J. Schultz served the district for 38 years as a teacher, coach and superintendent. He died Feb. 24, 1968, at the age of 71.

For the first time since 1965, when L.J. Schultz School opened, seventh-graders will attend school with students in the eighth grade at the district's new Central Junior High School next fall.

"It's really kind of sad for the sixth-graders who won't have a year by themselves," said seventh-grader Emily Ponder. "It's really been cool having our own school."

The building at 101 S. Pacific was originally built in 1914 as Central High School. In 1920, a 15,000-square-foot addition was constructed. In 1941, a 5,000-square-foot vocational building was added.

The building became a junior high school in 1953, after the district opened the new Central High School at 205 Carruthers.

It remained a junior high school until 1963 when the district closed it for two years for major renovations.

'They close my heart'

Betty Schuetts was among the first group of teachers to teach in the all-seventh-grade school. She will retire at the end of the year.

"They close my school, they close my heart," she said.

Most of the teachers will be moving to the new school, including Barbara Lohrmann, who teaches reading.

"When we heard it was closing I think we were looking forward to it in the sense that we'll have air conditioning at the new school," Lohrmann said. "But we really will miss our close community, our smaller staff and our small classes."

Lohrmann has taught at the school since 1998 -- 30 years after she graduated from the school.

"My dad graduated from here in '39, and my brothers and sisters and I went here," she said. "I have a sense of pride from being a student and a teacher here, and I am sad to see it close."

Sunday's open house was the first time many former students and teachers revisited the school.

"I haven't been in here for ages," said 91-year-old Madeline Godwin. "This is a revelation to me how it's fixed up with shiny floors!"

Godwin attended the school when it was the original Central High School. She graduated in 1929.

"I thought it was huge then," she said. "It just seemed very, very big. I think it's too bad that it's closing because it's a fine school."

The future of the building remains uncertain.

The district has been working since January with a potential buyer who would like to convert the building into office space, but the building has not yet been sold.

hkronmueller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 128

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