Thursday, October 30, 2014

Vallejo's Deplorable School Conditions - 76 Years Ago!

     Vallejo voters will soon be asked to vote on a School Bond Issue that will provide funds to alleviate problems with our local schools. Although it's an old cliche that "history repeats itself," in this case it's true. In 1938, students at Vallejo High School published the following article in the school newspaper, the "Red & White," urging voters to pass a Bond Issue to help improve conditions at the school. Under the headline: Napa Lives in Luxury! Vallejo Starves! the students wrote the following:

      "Last week when we visited the Napa Union High School, we were actually astounded at the classroom facilities which the students are so fortunate as to have. We envied them for their building which is of ample size to house the entire student body without overcrowding; whereas here in Vallejo some 1038 students are crowded into a building which when first occupied housed only 393 students. 
   "Showing plainly how classroom accommodations of Napa compare with ours are these figures; Napa has a total enrollment this year of 770, while Vallejo High has 1038 students enrolled. At Napa there are 32 full time teachers with 31 classes held each hour; here we have 36 full time teachers and 30 different classes held each hour. Included in the main building there are 29 classrooms as compared to our 19 classrooms. Here you will ask how hold 30 classes each hour with only 19 classrooms . The answer is, that five classes a day are held in the cafeteria; six classes a day are held in a makeshift room that was once the library; five classes a day are being held in a basement hall and apartment room; mechanical drawing classes are held in another makeshift room in the front of the shop building; then for three periods of the day there are two gym classes, one for boys and one for girls; during the other three periods there are three gym classes, one for boys and two for girls; also the shop and music buildings take care of three classes an hour.
    "Then too at Napa, each room that is utilized for a classroom really is a classroom. They have no poor excuses for classrooms such as we have; namely, the mechanical drawing room and the old library that is now used as a classroom. In these two rooms no poorer conditions for study could be found. To begin with, the mechanical drawing room is just a temporary room, partitioned off from the shops, and for a study that demands the very best of lighting we offer to our students the very worst. The furniture and equipment of this room is the most wretched that could be had; in the desktops are grooves and cracks that were brought there by old age alone. The library room where six English and language classes are held a day has for a wall a single partition that does not extend to the ceiling to divide it from the book room next door. The noise from this room is constantly interrupting the study in the classes on the other side of the partition. This so-called classroom is 13 by 28 feet, has no desks or tables – it is simply equipped with desk-chairs which prove very unsatisfactory – here thirty students or more each period struggle to concentrate on study.
   "These rooms when compared to the light, airy, spacious rooms of Napa High make Vallejo High look like a poor country relation. And when we asked the principal of Napa High whether any classes were held in the cafeteria he looked at us in such wonderment that we hurried to explain how the conditions at our school necessitated such a thing. Although at Napa High chemistry is not such an important subject as it is here, they have much better classroom and laboratory facilities than we have. They have for their classroom a room similar in the arrangement of the seats to the physics laboratory, though in no other way is it comparable. This room has windows lining one wall, is painted a light cream and green, and the desk-chairs are all finished in a light color. Lining the front wall of this room are cabinets for the storage of chemical supplies and books. Also in the front of the room is an experiment desk. Connecting this lecture room with the laboratory is a supply room where there are many large and conveniently arranged cupboards. The laboratory proper is a room larger than our present lab. Two walls of this room are lined with windows, while the other two rooms are lined with cupboards and drawers. At the front of this laboratory is a demonstration desk; placed parallel to this desk are the students’ experiment desks. These are very similar to the desks in the general science lab of the Junior High School. Accommodations in the lab are sufficient for 25 students; many of these students work alone on their experiments and some in couples, but nowhere to be seen were there three or four students working together on one experiment as we are forced under present conditions to do.
   "Comparing all the features of our ancient rivals’ chemistry lab and classroom with that poor little excuse for a chemistry lab of ours where the instructor tries to prepare the students for courses in college chemistry, we just shake our heads and wonder how we have been able to work under such adverse conditions for so long. Our poverty-stricken chemistry room with its ancient outmoded experiment desks, its inadequate storage space for chemical supplies, the 30 desk-chairs which are jammed into a space large enough for half of them is indeed a sorry sight.
   "Napa has both a physics and a biology laboratory; these are a combination of lecture hall and laboratory. They have at the front of both rooms chairs and tables for class work, while the physics room has desks similar to those of the chemistry room and the biology room is equipped with work benches the length of the room. Both rooms are very well lighted and have cabinets for supplies and specimen display.
   "From the time we entered the building at Napa we were conscious of the excellent lighting. In the offices, library, commercial, mechanical drawing, art and sewing rooms they have a system of indirect lighting.
   "The quiet that pervaded the halls and classrooms was another thing quite noticeable to us. As we entered the building we both remarked on how quiet it was; we saw a student walking down the hall before we heard her. There you can walk through the halls without the echo of footfalls resounding through the building. And nowhere on the lower floor could the noise of students walking in the classrooms above be heard, for the ceilings are insulated with sound-absorbing material.
   "Napa’s gym facilities greatly outdo ours, for they have a big and a little gym that are adequate for the needs of both girls’ and boys’ gym classes. There is never a gym class without a gym, for the boys and the girls alternate between the big and little gym. The girls shower facilities put ours to shame. They have 48 showers; these showers are below the level of the floor, thus eliminating the main objection to our present shower room facilities; namely, the water lying on the floor. But we have said so much about the intolerable condition of our gym that there is nothing more to be said but vote “yes” for the Bond Issue.
   "The real luxuries of Napa High School are their auditorium and public address system. Their little theatres roused much envy in us.
   "The tax rate for the schools at Napa is 41 cents this year; last year it was 58 cents because they were given $20,000 towards their building fund. This low tax rate is possible because the school is a Union High School. The Napa High School is valued at nearly $400,000, and the campus covers 40 acres. Much of this property is used by the students of the Agriculture Department. Here at Vallejo we have 16 acres of land included in our present campus; with the passing of the Bond Issue we will have a necessary 15 additional acres.
   "After seeing both Vallejo and Napa High Schools, we feel that Napa lives in luxury, while Vallejo starves. It is up to you to see that the Bond Issue is passed so we can compete academically on an equal basis with our neighboring school."