School renovation revisited

Monroe School renovation

The elementary school I attended, a beautiful building that looks like a castle, is currently undergoing renovations. I wrote about it once before, back in April, and shared some photos of the destruction. I was worried that their interior renovations were damaging some of James Monroe School’s character.

I was in South Bend over Thanksgiving and walked to the school to check progress. Since my last visit, No Trespassing signs have been liberally posted. Sometimes I wish I had either a little more guts or a little less sense of right and wrong, because I really wanted to see inside. But out of cowardice or prudence, take your pick, I photographed only from the street.

The new driveway looks to be in place. I’m guessing it will be used for school buses and parent drop-off and pick-up.

Monroe School renovation

Two of the exterior’s best features have been its slate roof and copper gutters and downpouts. Those downspouts were frequent targets for thieves. I took a good long look, because I didn’t expect to see either of them again.

Monroe School renovation

But when I walked around the building, I was delighted to see that copper gutters (or at least copper-like gutters) were being installed! Of course, the slate shingles were being replaced with asphalt shingles. I knew it would have to be, as I’m sure a new slate roof would cost many millions of dollars, but I was still disappointed. I wonder, though, how the South Bend school system afforded that roof when the building was new.

Monroe School renovation

A large new addition has taken shape where the school’s playground used to be. Playground equipment used to stand here, a few pieces of which endured from 1974 when the PTA donated it. I got to go with the PTA to play-test playground equipment all over the city that year as part of the selection process! Also gone is the cast-iron basketball pole into which my brother slid hard one icy day in 1975, turning his face into hamburger. Sniff, the memories.

Monroe School renovation

Here’s another view of the new addition. The school’s previous addition, from the 1960s, is behind it. It looks like a decent-sized new parking lot is being added here, too, which I imagine teachers will welcome. When I was first a student here, all teachers had to park on the street. A small lot was added a few years later, but it wasn’t nearly big enough.

Monroe School renovation

I hope they have an open house after the renovations are complete. If they do, you’d better believe I’ll be there.

Read about how my first walk to this school parallels my walk in faith.


11 responses to “School renovation revisited”

  1. Darin Batten Avatar
    Darin Batten

    Hello Jim,

    Nice WP blog! You had one question in your post about Monroe that I believe I know the answer to. You asked how did the school corporation afford the slate roof during the initial construction of Monroe. Well, I believe the answer is that the lion’s share of the funding, if not all, came from the Studebakers. I seem to recall back in the day seeing a plaque somewhere on the walls mentioning the gift from the Studebakers to South Bend for the construction of the school. There may be some other archival note for that but that is what I recall these many, many years later.

    Take care!


    1. Jim Avatar

      Hi Darin! Nice to hear from you. Thanks for the tip that the Studebaker family funded our school’s construction. I have tried to call up from the memory banks the plaque you mention but apparently that sector’s gone bad or something!

  2. Darin Batten Avatar
    Darin Batten

    Hey Jim! Well, I definitely understand failed sectors of the brain! Having just turned 43 in October (and you should not be too far behind me!) I have found that some memories are either distorted or flat out missing… Age… That is the final frontier, regardless of what Trekies may proclaim.

    I am trying to remember if the plaque was right near the main doors in front near the little area where the Safety Patrol kept our rain coats that also doubled as storage for the paper and pencil machine (wow…just remembered that one!!) or immediately across from it. Of course, I might be all wet and having a hallucination. False memory syndrome? Eh…

    It is good to hear that you are doing well. I have not seen Rick in about 10 years and your folks for even longer. I do hope all is well. Take care and thanks for the nostalgia!


    1. Jim Avatar

      The folks are still on Erskine. Rick’s here in Indy and we both work in the software industry, such as it is in Indiana.

      I put enough coins into that pencil machine that I got one pencil for every NFL team at the time. I kept them, unsharpened, until just a few years ago.

      1. Darin Avatar

        It is good to hear that all is well with you and the family. My folks are still on Lancaster. Craig was injured at work (construction trades) and is currently “mooching” off my folks. Dawn is in Florida raising twins. Her oldest boy was raised by my folks and just graduated from Riley this last June! I moved to Goshen a few years back and was working inventory controls until the bottom fell out of the RV industry after my foray into owning the comic shop and its demise. It is sad to think that a BA degree means so little! I should try to finish my Masters but I became so disillusioned with the back bitting that I doubt I could ever go back. Never married (close once, but this ain’t horseshoes or jarts!) and no kids – a condition I am grateful for during these lean economic times!

        I guess I am one of those that does not care about the whole Class Reunion thing that most of our fellow 85’ers do. The only other guy that I wonder about is George Zorich. We we real close friends all through the Monroe-Jackson-Riley years and even tried to keep up contact that first year of college. Of course I bleed Cream & Crimson and he went to that funny chewchew academy in Lafayette so things just sort of evaporated. Of all our classmates, he is the one that fell of the grid but good.

        Well, not trying to be melancholy here. We’ve know each other for nearly forty years now. It is strange how things go. But it is good to hear from you Jim! Take care.


  3. Richard Avatar

    WOW, I can’t believe they have done so much to the school. Granted I’m not as old as you guys. lol. I went there from K-4th grade from 86-early 90. It’s great it is still there. Also on the Funding issue it was the Studebaker’s I remember going on a few field trips to the museam and the teachers telling us they were the ones that helped build the school.

    1. Jim Avatar

      Well, I’m sure glad the Studebakers did! It is a great building.

  4. gabbie Avatar

    i go to monroe school but it sucks that now i go to studebaker i am hopeing it will be done soon well atleast we have air it fells good but i miss monroe and thank u everone that it helping
    the new monroe i will not be there next year

    1. Jim Avatar

      It’s too bad you won’t be able to enjoy the renovated Monroe next year! But count your blessings for that air conditioning at Studebaker. I remember too many sweltering, sweaty afternoons in those classrooms at Monroe.

  5. Carla Avatar

    Thank you so much for the update. I taught many years at Monroe including the years Richard attended Monroe (I wonder who his 4th grade teacher was) so the new building is of great interest to me. Thanks again.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I happen to be in South Bend this weekend and went out to see the completed building. They did a decent job keeping the exterior intact. I couldn’t see much inside but what I could see looked pretty good. The old playground is gone, replaced by an addition, but it created an inner courtyard. That courtyard is a playground for the younger children. A playground for the older children is out back behind the part of the building that used to house the cafeteria and the old junior-high rooms.

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