Hot Springs …In Class

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Ask Liz -

Just ask Liz. El­iz­a­beth Rob­bins and the staff of the Gar­land County His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety are ready to tackle your ques­tions about Hot Springs’ rich his­tory each month. Just write Ask Liz, P.O. Box 580, Hot Springs, AR 71902, or e-mail edi­tor@hot­spring­son­

What can you tell me about the first schools in Hot Springs?

The first schools in the Hot Springs area were sub­scrip­tion schools (schools that charged fees) circa 1845 at Chaly­beate Springs and at the lower end of Hot Springs Val­ley. Those schools closed dur­ing the Civil War.

In 1869, the Hot Springs In­sti­tute ad­ver­tised a 20-week course for $5 per month, with classes that in­cluded English, gram­mar, an­cient and mod­ern his­tory, science and phi­los­o­phy. Around that time, the first school for African-Amer­i­can chil­dren met in a brush ar­bor on the site of Roanoke Bap­tist Church on Whittington Av­enue. Classes were taught three days a week by a Mem­phis min­is­ter who trav­eled weekly to Hot Springs. Two Freed­men’s schools for black stu­dents were also hold­ing classes in the late 1860s in the Hot Springs vicin­ity.

In 1876, sub­scrip­tion schools opened – the Cot­tage Street School, Crest Street School, and Mrs. Jones School (a one­room log build­ing, fee $2 a month) on Hob­son Av­enue. In 1881, the Hot Springs Spe­cial School Dis­trict or­ga­nized. It set a 5-mill tax to raise op­er­at­ing funds and spent $4,346.30 in its first year. Prin­ci­pals re­ceived $60 a month and teach­ers, $50. The dis­trict had 389 pupils in classes that went through grade eight.

The first grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony was held in the Opera House on Cen­tral Av­enue in May 1886 for those who had com­pleted grade school. Nel­lie Con­nelly and John Tay­lor asked to be al­lowed to com­plete the full high school course (which went through 10th grade). Per­mis­sion was granted on con­di­tion that this would re­quire as lit­tle of the teach­ers’ time as pos­si­ble. They re­ceived their high school diplo­mas the fol­low­ing year in a class of two – Nel­lie was vale­dic­to­rian and John, salu­ta­to­rian.

The high school for white stu­dents that was built in 1908 on Oak Street was de­stroyed in the fire of 1913. A new build­ing (with a large coal boiler that was built for use in a bat­tle­ship) was erected for $164,000. Oc­cu­pied un­til 1967, the build­ing is now the Wil­liam Jef­fer­son Clin­ton Cul­tural Cam­pus. The 1913 fire also de­stroyed Langston School, the black high school on School Street. It was re­built on Sil­ver Street and re­placed in 1963 on the same site. Hot Springs High School moved to its cur­rent build­ing on Emory Street in 1968, the year the high school was in­te­grated.

HSHS’s first football team was or­ga­nized in 1907, with the play­ers buy­ing their own equip­ment. HSHS Tro­jan games were played at Whittington Park be­fore Rix Field was built in 1930, while the Langston

Bull­dogs used Ma­jes­tic Field and then Sam Guinn Field. On th­ese fields, fans cheered out­stand­ing play­ers like fu­ture U of A star Bud Canada and fu­ture Cleve­land Brown and Wash­ing­ton Red­skin Bobby Mitchell.

The Hot Springs School Dis­trict has faced many chal­lenges, such as a fi­nan­cial short­fall teach­ers helped meet in 1937 by sell­ing jon­quils out­side Oak­lawn Park. But it has over­come those chal­lenges to be­come an out­stand­ing dis­trict (and the fifth-largest em­ployer in Gar­land County).

The schools in the cur­rent Hot Springs Dis­trict No. 6 are Gard­ner Math, Science, and Tech­nol­ogy Mag­net School; Langston Aero­space and En­vi­ron­men­tal Mag­net School; Oak­lawn Vis­ual and Per­form­ing Arts Mag­net School; Park In­ter­na­tional Bac­calau­re­ate Mag­net School; Hot Springs In­ter­me­di­ate School, Hot Springs Mid­dle School; and Hot Springs High School.

Led by Su­per­in­ten­dent Joyce Craft since 2007, the dis­trict had an en­roll­ment of 3,642 and a bud­get of ap­prox­i­mately $30 mil­lion in 2012-13. Craft says, “We pride our­selves on be­ing a dis­trict of choice, ex­cel­lence and op­por­tu­nity, and that our In­ter­na­tional Bac­calau­re­ate pro­gram is sec­ond to none.”

Hot Spring High School circa 1950

Oak­lawn El­e­men­tary 1908-1950

circa 1890

Bill Clin­ton at Ram­ble School 1958

Jones School 1882

Work­ers at Jones School 1913

Hot Springs High School 1964

1st Class at Langston High School

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