|A Place Called YORKSHIP
|Last modified December 26, 2007|
It is as imposing a neighborhood school as may ever have been built--dwarfing not only the houses nearby but every other structure in the village, including the churches.
To call it a "two-story" building is to understate its impression on the senses, not only because of the extraordinarily high ceilings within, but because most of the building sits atop a full-height basement only half sunk into the earth. The massive structural brick walls [A] tower over the surrounding playyards.
The great footprint of Yorkship School is a square four-and-a-half classrooms on a side. The recess yards which surround it fill out a still larger square limned by sidewalks, a square which touches westbound Collings Avenue on the south, Octagon Road on the north. The stores of the Square are a block away, across Octagon Road and through a short alley.
Within the footprint of the school, the plan of the corridors and classrooms forms a squared-off block "A" (red), with the classrooms on the outside and the corridors on the inside. The "mouth" of the A is filled by a cavernous gymnasium cum auditorium that includes a full stage. The "A" encloses an open-air courtyard [D] paved in concrete and connected to the Collings Road recess yard by a brick-arch tunnel [C] wide enough to drive a car through. At the south end of the tunnel a pair of black wrought-iron grates closed off the courtyard when school was out of session.There are six entrances on the outside walls--two flanking the auditorium on the north (marked GIRLS and BOYS) [B], one each on the east and west, and two on the south. Two more exits are tucked in along the sides of the courtyard tunnel. Four stairwells with metal stairs connect the two stories. At the top of the east and west stairwells, half a flight above the second floor, are small storage rooms which were used primarily for textbook storage. The crawlspace "attic" was accessible from those storage rooms.
Outside, more and more of the play area was paved as time went on--first the east and west yards in concrete, then the south yards [E] in "blacktop." Some of the trees which once surrounded the school survived the paving.
But how these spaces are used has probably changed more than the spaces themselves have changed.
In the late 1960s, Yorkship was organized as a two-section lower elementary (K-6) with self-contained classrooms and a four-section upper elementary with subject specialization. The first floor was occupied by K-4; the east corridor of the second floor held grades 5-6, and the west and south corridors the grade 7-8 "junior high." The additional two sections in the upper grades consisted of students bused in from Morgan Village, across Newton Creek. (After Morgan Village Middle School was built, Fairview students made the journey in the other direction.)
There were no lockers or hooks in the corridors--each classroom had its own dark, narrow cloakroom with two doors and a narrow window. Each K-4 classroom had its own upright piano, and most of the lower elementary teachers could and did play--the brick walls kept the sound surprisingly well contained. There was no food service, no cafeteria. Everyone walked home for lunch. But a team of eighth graders delivered milk to the lower elementary classrooms from a cooler in the gymnasium at morning and afternoon recess.
The basement was dominated by the enormous boilers which fed the radiators under the windows of every classroom. Other parts of the basement were designated as an air raid shelter, and emergency supplies were stored there in boxes and paper barrels. But the monthly air raid drills for students--duck and cover!--employed the windowless inner corridors of the upper levels..
There was no permanent seating in the auditorium. When there was to be an assembly, swarms of students would set up and then take down the folding metal chairs stored on long metal carts along the walls.
The normal upper elementary schedule was a homeroom and six periods. All students had English, math, social studies, and science daily. Art, music, phys ed, and health, in rotation, filled out the rest of the day. Art and music had their own second-floor rooms, staffed by part-time teachers shared with other schools.
There was no library to speak of. Audiovisual equipment was stored in a small room on the first floor, near the office. Eighth graders delivered film and filmstrip projectors from the AV room to the classes which had requested them.
The science room had a demonstration table for the teacher, but no lab stations for the students.
Since the early 1990s, Yorkship has been home to a Professional Development School (PDS) of Rowan University (formerly Glassboro State College) focusing on computers and technology in elementary education.
A. B. C.
In the 1990s, Yorkship underwent its first substantial renovation in eighty years. An addition on the north (Octagon Road) side expanded the school to the sidewalk, gobbling up the former kindergarten play yard and eliminating the original BOYS and GIRLS entrances..
to Yorkship Main Page
your Yorkship memories to Michael Kube-McDowell, Class of '68