This is the second installment in a two-part series on the former elementary school.
By MICHAEL FREEMAN
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) – South East Elementary School saw many elementary school students walk through its doors for more than 50 years before closing its doors in 2011.
Nancy Rogers, the school’s last principal, said South East was a special place for children to begin their education.
Best known for being an all-kindergarten school, South East was purchased by UCM and will soon be transformed into its General Services building.
Rogers moved to Warrensburg in 1984, teaching special education for the school district. She became principal of South East in 2001 and served for 10 years.
“I absolutely loved both jobs,” Rogers said. “But being around kindergarten children was such a great and loving experience.”
Michael Jinks, who served as superintendent of the Warrensburg R-VI School District from 1986 to 2006, said Rogers was an enthusiastic principal.
“She did a great job working with kids, faculty members and parents,” Jinks said. “I always enjoyed working with her.”
Built in 1960, South East underwent several changes throughout the years, including the additional of two mobile units on the north side of the building and a renovation that removed many of the windows that lined the building’s long corridors.
“It is such a well laid-out building, especially for young children,” Rogers said. “Parents loved the way the children could maneuver around the building.”
Because of space limitations, the halls of South East doubled as the library for a while, Jinks said.
“The library was all strung out with bookcases along walls,” he said.
The school had its eccentricities, but such quirks only added to the comfortable atmosphere.
“Students and their families felt safe and loved the feel of the building,” Rogers said. “Every day was memorable.”
Most of all, she enjoyed watching the children grow, both academically and socially.
“This is the first time they are part of a school community,” Rogers said. “Seeing them on their way to being productive citizens is exciting.”
Rogers misses being around the children daily, the honesty and inspiration they brought to her and the entire staff at South East. She misses watching teachers help students reach their full potential and seeing parents marvel at their child’s growth.
UCM purchased the building as part of a much larger project, said Jeff Murphy, assistant director for Media Relations at UCM.
“The university, in the future, will demolish the General Services building and move its major operations to South East,” Murphy said.
Demolishing the General Services building at South and Washington streets will make room for a new 320-bed, mixed-use student housing facility.
The university plans to make some changes to the South East building, including interior work and the construction of an equipment building on the north side of the property, Murphy said.
“We were so lucky to be close to the university,” Rogers said. “It saddens me that the building will not continue to house students of some nature.”
Jinks said South East the university should be able to use the building well.
“It’s nice that the university purchased it and will be able to use it,” Jinks said. “It’s a perfectly usable building in many regards.”
The school has since closed its doors to students, but its spirit of learning and warmth lives on inside those who experienced it.
“Parents entrusted us to take care of the most precious gift – their child,” Rogers said. “And I believe we did that with honor and respect as a family at South East.”