Eugene Field Elementary School closes its doors after 93 years

Friday, December 18, 2009 | 6:45 p.m. CST; updated 10:32 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 19, 2009
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Field Elementary School students said farewell to their building on Friday, the last day of school before winter break. Classrooms were cleaned out and the school took students on one last field trip to Columbia College to watch a Cougars basketball game. The new year will bring a new school as students and teachers from Field will now be at Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary.

COLUMBIA — It appeared to be business as usual at Eugene Field Elementary School on Friday. Backpacks hung from hooks outside classrooms and coats overflowed into the hallway.

Children were in their classrooms as they had been during the school year, though bulletin boards were bare.

Inside the classrooms, however, not much academic work was taking place. In a festive mood, children were making gingerbread houses, listening to stories and eating treats.

After 93 years, Field Elementary has closed. In January, the faculty, staff and 297 students will move to Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary School on Arbor Pointe Parkway in northeast Columbia.  Field will house Columbia Public Schools’ Gifted Program and Early Childhood Education classes.

“I am a little upset because Field is one of the only schools I’ve been to,” said Maggie Sexton, a fifth-grader who has attended Field for six years. “I am going miss everything.”

Field Elementary opened in 1916 with six classrooms, rooms for domestic science   and an office. It was named after the American author Eugene Field Sr., famous for his children’s poetry and humorous essays, including the poem, "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod."

“For some teachers, it is going to be bittersweet," Library and Media Specialist Donna Moessner said.

"It is an old building, so there have been some problems, but it is our building and we are proud of it.”

Faculty and students will be adjusting to a brand new school on a 20-acre site with room for 630 students. There will be five classrooms for each grade level and rooms for pre-kindergarten, special education, art, music and science.

“You create a classroom to be your own," said Heather Zepp, a third-grade teacher for five years at Field. "I will have to recreate my classroom at the new school.”

On Friday, students ate lunch as usual. Afterward, they headed out into snow flurries toward Columbia College’s arena, where they would watch a Cougars basketball game.

This is the last time Columbia College and Field Elementary will be together as Partners in Education, after the more than 22 year relationship. As Partners in Education, Columbia College assisted Field Elementary by providing individualized reading and pen-pal programs, as well as job shadow and college day opportunities, banquets and field days.

“We will miss our partnership with Columbia College,” Principal Dan Boatman said. “It was great to walk down the halls and see the relationships between them and the kids.”

Columbia College President Gerald Brouder shared in that sentiment: “It has been a mutually beneficial relationship.”

The students and faculty have bittersweet emotions about the move but are excited about the new space.

Moessner said the Media Center will be about three times as large.

"There's a computer lab attached, instead of down the hall," she said. "This will allow me to supervise kids on the computer while I work in the library. It is going to be an exciting opportunity."

On Thursday night, Field held a Farewell Open House for the community. Former students and teachers walked the halls for the last time and shared memories with the current faculty.

Linda Giddings, who taught fifth grade from 1969 to 1972, visited her old classroom.  She recalled how the room used to have wooden windows frames and a wooden floor. When she taught, there was no air conditioning, so they would open the big windows to cool down the room.

“You would get a huge breeze," she said. "You just had to worry about the kids leaning too far over.”

She also recalled the end of the year field trip to the St. Louis Zoo, the Arch and the airport that her class would take at the end of the year.

“Many of the kids had never even been out of town before that,” she said.

Russell Gay, a student in 1985, said, “It was a diverse school and the teachers here were very cool.”

Judy Arnett, who has taught different grades throughout her 26 years at Field, said she will miss the small community and being able to know the students and families.

Although this close community will expand next fall to include students from other schools and to add faculty, the faculty hope to stay connected.

“(Field) concentrated us in a small area, so we saw everybody every day," Moessner said. "It was hard to miss any of them, even when they were out in the trailers. I think we can maintain that closeness but we will have to work harder."


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Billy Day December 18, 2009 | 9:24 p.m.

This will be a very bittersweet closing. I attended Eugene Field Elementary from 1961 to 1966. I remember the old and the "new" parts of the building, which has been added onto over the years. I remember fantastic teachers like Mrs. Stanley (third grade) and Mrs Wade (sixth grade) and so do my siblings, most of whom had many of the same teachers after me. We were a very tight knit school, the envy of most other schools in Columbia at that time. We were never that big, but we had a closeness that kept us happy, healthy and learning all the time!!! Good bye Eugene Field, you will be sorely missed by this past student!!!

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