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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ruch School Turns 100

143 Years Strong

Ruch School turns 100

Story by Paula Bandy

On the last day of May in 1871, Logtown School District was established. The original schoolhouse was built of local rough-hewn wood with handmade benches and tables to accommodate 51 students. Five years later, mostly through the agency of Martin Drake, an influential community member, a new frame school was built and called Drake School. In 1897, the district was redesignated as Ruch District.

Seventeen years later, the dilapidated frame building was removed, slat-by-slat, and reused for other buildings. Concrete blocks were mixed and molded on site by a local stonemason. This more substantial one-room schoolhouse, with windows set high so the students couldn’t dreamily gaze out the windows, was formally dedicated on May 16, 1914. Fortunately, during a mid-century remodel, the windows were lowered to favor inspirational daydreaming. Today, Ruch School, which includes the 1914 building, houses many more rooms, a modern gymnasium, and still remains the heart of this small Applegate community. A 100-year celebration is planned for May.

“We’re different out here,” says Principal Julie Hill. With an “unparalleled art program, vigorous athletic agenda and having just been awarded a prestigious literacy award,” they are one of the few community based educational programs in the Rogue Valley. Yet, Ruch School is one of Jackson County’s public schools. That combination is attractive to many. Hill states, “Homeschoolers and charter students are coming back. We offer traditions not often seen in conventional families these days.”

While some may consider Ruch an isolated community, in reality, what the school and the community offer is a back-to-the-roots approach. “It’s all about relationships. That’s why we are so successful out here. We all know each other, teachers know all the kids, young kids partner up with older kids…we have everything here, and more,” Hill continues. “We have as many as 20 volunteers on a given day and boast as many as 1000 volunteer hours in a month! In addition, we teach sustainability and composting at a community garden where the students do all the work.”

Ruch School’s mission is about teaching children educational tools for cultivating learning along with real world skills to be enjoyed and practiced throughout their lifetime. One of the ways students learn this is through the developing viticulture of the valley and how this affects local economy and culture. The students visit wineries, stomp grapes, tour facilities, take home fresh grape juice and vine starts, all while learning the importance of industry and work ethics. Another partnership, with Coyote Trails, offers opportunities to learn about nature as they help to restore trails. They also continue maintenance on a nature trail created by a previous generation of students near the school. And speaking of generations, some of the families claim several that have gone to school here

The school also remained open during the recent teacher’s strike. Teachers, employees, and community members endow the school with diverse experiences, refined practices and a sense of place. The strong art and music programs sweeten the children’s imaginations and creativity. Ruch School’s active athletic program stimulates healthy competition, teamwork and enhances community involvement. Small schools like this are all about community and the community revolves around the school.

The 143-year history of Ruch School holds a deeply rooted attitude of mutual care and sustainable community, everyday. Special events and a rededication of the original school building as Ruch School Community Center are planned for their Centennial Reunion in May. Past students, teachers and employees will be reminiscing about their funniest and fondest memories, including a ‘museum of photographs.’ The plans for construction of a new cupola for the 100 year-old bell will be presented and there will be the unveiling of a mural on a large outdoor wall.

100-Year Centennial Reunion

Ruch School Community K-8

Saturday, May 17, 2014

11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more info contact Ruch School

541-842-3850

Julie.hill@medford.k12.or.us

SIDEBAR

In the 1930s, when Ed 'Hawkeye' Hawkins went to Ruch School, Forest Creek always had water running through it. At the time there was only a gravel road separating the creek and the school. "Us boys would go over to the creek between classes for a quick swim," Hawkeye reminisces, and then leans in closer to tell me, "and we'd always try to get the girls to come with us for a skinny dip." 

Ruch Elementary has a 100 year-old history and some of its students do also...well, almost. At 91, the seemingly ever-smiling Hawkeye often tells his stories to the current Ruch students. "The kids love his stories and laugh a lot," says principal Julie Hill.

Back in the day, Ed and his big brother used to play cowboys and Indians with the other boys. To prevent Ed from being thrown in the "Indian jail" too often, his brother called him "Hawkeye the Indian Guide," and it stuck. Years later, after Hawkeye joined the Navy and was stationed overseas during WWII, he went into a bar in Germany and somebody who knew him yelled out "Hey, Hawkeye." A Navy man for 40-some years, Hawkeye saw Korea and Vietnam as well. He emphasizes how important learning to read and do math is, and how important it is that parents take part in their child's education. "When I was here [at Ruch School] learning, my family would sit around the table at night with a kerosene lantern in the middle and we would take turns reading out loud to each other. It has to be learned by hand, not by computer or calculator."

SIDEBAR

Rules for Teachers 1914

1. You will not marry during the term of your contract.

2. You are not to keep company with men.

3. You must be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless at a school function.

4. You may not loiter downtown in any of the ice cream stores.

5. You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have permission of the chairman of the school board.

6. You may not ride in carriages or automobiles with any man except your father or brother.

7. You may not smoke cigarettes.

8. You may not dress in bright colors.

9. You may under no circumstances dye your hair.

10. You must wear at least two petticoats.

11. Your dresses may not be any shorter than two inches above the ankles.

12. To keep the classroom neat and clean you must sweep the floor once a day, scrub the floor with hot soapy water once a week, clean the blackboards once a day and start the fire at 7 a.m. to have the school warm by 8 a.m. when the scholars arrive.

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