As Springfield leaders prepare for the future of their community’s schools, they are looking to the past for inspiration.
The Livingston Parish School Board has approved an April 9 election on whether to collect a 36.25-mill property tax in the Springfield district to build a new high school. Though the measure has not yet been approved, planners have begun to sketch some designs, drawing on images of the first Springfield High, which was destroyed by criminals.
In 1971, two teenagers broke into the town’s original high school built in the 1920s. Slinking through the darkness after a football game, they lit some pieces of paper to make their way as they broke into the principal’s office and rummaged through school records.
According to news reports, they left the impromptu torches behind, and the flames spread to other papers and books, the blaze growing until the whole school was in flames. By the time crews arrived, the fire was so large the pumper truck ran out of water trying to extinguish it. The entire two-story main building was destroyed.
The teens were soon caught and eventually pleaded guilty to arson, but the people of Springfield were left without a school. They thought about opening the junior high from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day and teaching grades in shifts. Ultimately, the Springfield Methodist Church decided to open its doors to students, who received instruction there and in two portable classrooms.
The district eventually built a new school, the one currently in use. But four decades later, the community has outgrown it, School Board member Jim Richardson has said.
A group of parents and alumni known as the Springfield School Expansion Project have banded together to advocate for a new school. They have also met with architect Chris Bankston to discuss his plans.
Bankston recalled they showed him a photo of the old school and said they wanted to pay homage to the old site, where the architect said his grandfather was a student.
Due to a variety of constraints, it would be impossible to copy the 1920s construction exactly, he said.
“Maybe we could take some inspiration from the photographs as a nod to the past,” Bankston said.
A few features have stood out, such as the original’s long, expansive windows and formal brick entryway. Bankston is still drawing but thinks the new school’s facade will be familiar to longtime residents, if not a one-for-one replacement.
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.