Students share memories Historic 1903 school building demolished

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Renovations continue at Clayton Ridge Schools. More than a half dozen companies and an estimated 40-50 employees are currently at work on the premises. Above, in a photo taken on Thursday, June 28, a hole is opened in the block wall on the southwest corner of the gymnasium and rubble is being cleared away. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

The oldest school building on the Clayton Ridge Guttenberg campus was demolished last month to make way for new construction. In this two-part series, continued from the June 20 issue, The Press looks back at the building’s beginnings with reflections from former students.

Caroline Rosacker, class of ’79, recalls the home economics department of Mrs. Kellogg and Mrs. Cherne on the building’s third floor, with Mr. Killian’s art class held in the lower level. Typing with Mrs. Kennedy and a journaling class were also held in the building. “I loved the old building with the creaky floors and the big staircase up the center. There were big windows with the sunshine streaming in creating dust moats. The rooms had big heavy doors that closed funny, with the old fashioned transoms overhead. I will miss the old landmark,” she told The Press. “I only attended school here for five years, but I will say, coming from a very modern school in Chicago that old building seemed pretty cool.”

Dave Schlueter, class of ‘86, attended vocational agriculture classes with Steve Zaruba in the 1903 building. “I did take four years of vo-ag and participated in FFA. Those of us in vo-ag classes were also allowed to have eighth hour study hall in Mr. Zaruba's room, but I don't recall doing any studying during that time,” he reported. 

Michelle Geuder, class of ’91, took home economics upstairs as well as a class called ‘Working with Young Children.’ “First things first, no matter what, you had to climb those stairs. They seemed a hundred feet high and the stair treads weren’t wide so I always had a fear of falling down them (not unwarranted, sadly).  They’d be slippery sometimes and they were rickety even back then. Honestly, I was always worried that the upstairs was going to collapse onto the lower level,” said the GHS graduate. “The classrooms were absolutely huge, but always cold and drafty.  I can still hear the floors creak because the boys were always running around or throwing a football. I was up there when they were doing tours several years ago and was surprised to find out the rooms weren’t even close to the size my high-school mind remembers.”

The balcony, Geuder says, was “the best thing to hit junior high. We came up from St. Mary’s for gym and the mornings when we got to sit out there like our public school counterparts was glorious. Nobody said it, but we were pea-green with envy that ‘they’ had that balcony because it was the coolest thing around.”

In the 2000s (the era of this Press writer), there was some switching of classroom space as junior high students moved to the Garnavillo campus after merging with Guttenberg to become Clayton Ridge. In any case, during those years students (of all genders) were still sewing shorts and learning to cook on the building’s top floor. At the bottom of the grand staircase, Terry Green taught science beneath everlasting wasp nests penetrated by flying pens and pencils. Barry Shea taught history and played guitar, Mike Sasse taught math, and Sue Dvorak led a student resource room. Robin Althoff taught English. Steve Dikkers trained students to recognize the moon phases, the patterns on his many ties, and that repetition is the key to memorization.

The top floor of the 1903 building continued to house the family and consumer sciences department until 2006, when those classes were moved to the high school. A special education resource room was also relocated at that time, and the third story has been vacant in the 12 years since. Classes in the middle and the bottom stories classrooms continued to the end of the 2017-18 school year. Ground level classrooms were used for Title I, special education, high school English and a technology lab. The building’s lower level housed the weight room and an elementary art room. 

Construction on the new commons area that will replace the 1903 building will begin soon. The entire school facility upgrade is expected to be completed by December.

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