One day in 1923, children from Baxter Street School gathered up their pencils and erasers, their papers and books. They left their school at Baxter and Pope, and with their teacher at the head of the line, headed up Baxter hill.
The group turned south on Bloomfield and walked to a spring near Cloverhurst. There, they stopped to have a drink before crossing Lumpkin to their new school, David C. Barrow Elementary. When they reached the school, they scraped off the mud from their shoes before entering. They didn’t want to dirty the floors on the first day.
So said the late Dr. John Stegeman, who was among the first pupils in the new building, called Lumpkin Street School by some students.
For 90 years, children have been attending Barrow Elementary, and today, its current pupils and its former ones will wish it a happy birthday. Over the years as the number of students increased and the nature of education changed, the school building grew—a lunchroom and gym were added, as were more classrooms and a library, in a kind of higgledy-piggledy fashion.
The structure of education changed as well—Pre-k classes arrived, the kindergarten left and returned, seventh grade left for junior high and the sixth grade left for middle school. The skin color of the children and faculty changed to include black and brown as well as white. The Lord’s Prayer was dropped from the morning routine. Lunch expanded from soup to soup and sandwiches to a full meal. The Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. Children arrived at school knowing no English and left with fluency.
What hasn’t changed in 90 years is the dedication of the faculty and staff and their determination to help every child realize the best within them. Personal histories about Barrow from long ago mention teachers buying materials for their classrooms and gifts and essentials for their students—as they do today.
Inside today’s new Barrow Elementary—modern, high tech and light-filled—Dr. Stegeman would possibly recognize his old school. The octagonal skylight and the two original wings were incorporated into the new design.
But he might not. The new Barrow sprawls across almost six acres and includes a huge gym, a fantastic media center, special rooms for art and music, a giant lunchroom that opens onto a courtyard and wings of classes for every grade. And windows, lots and lots of windows, in every classroom and hallway. The whole school seems to hum with happiness.
Inside the classrooms—at least in the primary grades—are moveable desks and a variety of things to sit on, like stools of different sizes with a bottom that lets you rock as you sit. Walls can be moved so two classrooms can meet in a common space. The library furniture can be configured to accommodate different numbers of children and adults.
The community is invited to join with current and former students and staff at the school on Sunday, from 2 to 4pm, to wish Barrow a happy 90th birthday. There will be historical materials, tours, speeches, big scissors to cut ribbons and a big yummy cake.