History of Paris schools, part 2

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We must now go back to 1896 and give credit to the District #95 School Board that was the builder of new schools and renovators of old structures to better serve the students in Paris. For the next 17 years this board, consisting of Henry S. Tanner, Joseph E. Dyas, Dr. R. S. Lycan, Zara Z. Powell, O. S. Jones and John C. Risser, stayed intact. During their tenure Tanner, Vance, Redmon and Paris High School were built and Sanford School was renovated.

Mayo School was destroyed by fire Jan. 20, 1927, and by the start of the 1928 school year a new school was built. That building still stands. The school board then consisted of T. J. Trogdon, president; Karl R. O’Hair, secretary; plus R. G. Lehman, Edward Levings, R. K. Shelledy, Bernie McClain and John R. Moss as superintendent. The architects were Liese & Ludwick. For many years, it served as a primary school serving all eight grades, but as Paris grew it became a middle school for grades six through eight.

Mayo was expanded in 1989 to include a new gymnasium with locker rooms, a band room, a kitchen with lunchroom attached and more classrooms. Part of the old school was redone so a better library and classrooms replaced the old gymnasium and stage area. This was done under the leadership of the board which was: Monty Raley, president; Jerry McDaniel, vice-president; Bill Schaffner, secretary; and Stephen Benefiel, Monroe Hall, James Keller and John A. Piper. Sam McGowen was superintendent, with Mike Watts assistant superintendent and Joseph Creedan principal. The school now has 280 students with 23 teachers led by the principal Kyle Shay. The gym is now known as Joe Whitaker gymnasium named after a well-known teacher and principal at Mayo School.

Carolyn Wenz School was built in 1953 on a lot where the Sanford School once stood some 23 years before. It was named for Carolyn Wenz a beloved principal in the Paris School system. Megan Carroll is now the principal for grades three to five, which serves 317 students and has a staff of 15 teachers. It is so much different than the old First Ward (Sanford) school.

The newer school is all on one floor whereas the old school had two floors. In June 1874, 70 years before Wenz was built, the old school had only two rooms for the first and second grades. The children at that time were from the First Ward of the city and west of Main Street. The upstairs had rooms for teaching the blacks, which included adults who had no opportunity for schooling. Before that time the African Americans were not allowed in public schools, but Paris had a makeshift school provided for them by the Freedman’s Bureau in the upper story of Dorssett’s clothing store.

State and federal laws prohibit segregation and children of all races attend the same schools and are found in the same classrooms. Nowadays the students come from all over Paris and make up the third, fourth and fifth grades They have the benefit of their own gym and two large playgrounds.

Memorial School was built in 1957 at 509 E. Newton Street. It has a staff of 21 teachers for a kindergarten through second grade building school that serves 305 students. Jeremy Larson serves as the Memorial School principal in addition to being superintendent of District 95.

The Bridges classroom on East Court Street, operated by the Regional Office of Education, is an alternative school for children who do not do well in a traditional classroom setting. Bridges Alternative School serves 13 students between the sixth and 12th grades with four teachers. There is also an Alternative Learning Center on Eads Avenue operated by Paris Union School District 95.

The former Paris High School built in 1909 had a new gymnasium added in 1943, built partly by a government program and local funds. It holds 3,000 people and is one of the iconic gyms of Central Illinois. It is named Eveland Gym because of Coach Ernie Eveland’s two state championship teams and his many years of bringing class basketball to Paris. A high school football field built in 1934 on the corner of Buena Vista and Edgar Street still serves Mayo School.

An addition to the high school was made in the 1950s that included agriculture classrooms and shops. Several years later more classrooms and shops were erected, just south of the gym, and expanded the automotive and ag shops. Part of that facility is now used as a training school for plastic molding technology, which is a co-venture between Lakeland College and North American Lighting and the building is owned by the City of Paris. The city also owns Eveland Gym, and it is still used for some basketball and many other events that benefit Paris and the community.

In 2009, a co-op high school was formed by uniting with Unit 4 that surrounds Paris and District 95. The property exchanges of the school and gym happened after a new Cooperative Paris High School was built north of Paris. The present Paris Union District No. 95 board is Kevin Knoepful, president; John Sanchez, vice-president; Cindy Mathis, secretary; and Amy Isaf, Beetle Bailey, Tom Tuttle and Jamey Littleton.

A school system that was started almost 200 years ago with just 20 students and one teacher has now grown to more than 1,000 students. If we count the administrators, teachers, teachers aides, secretaries, janitors, maintenance staff, cooks and bus drivers it has become a pretty large industry that does a very important job.