BURLINGTON FREE PRESS AND TIMES:
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 1942
The makeshift nature of school teaching in Fairfax, since the old Bellows Free academy building was burned down last year, is illustrated by the scene below surrounding Principal Clinton W. Demeritt as he points to a black board placed on two pulpit chairs in the old Baptist Church, now used as a schoolhouse. By March 1, however, the 270 high school and graded pupils of the academy will move into the newly completed $125,000 structure shown above.
Special Article From The Burlington Free Pres
FAIRFAX, Feb. 9, 1942 - Before the first of next month the 158 pupils in the Fairfax graded school and the 112 pupils in the Bellows Free academy of that town will have moved into their brand new $125,000 school building. Until that day, however, the academy pupils will continue to attend their classes in the Baptist church and the grade school pupils will continue to be taught in several private homes and the vestry of the Methodist church.
This "education at large" has been going on here since the old academy building was destroyed by fire Jan, 16, last year. Faced with the problem of continuing school despite sudden adversity, principal Clinton' W. Demeritt and Dist. Supt. Homer Hunt scattered their flocks in whatever places were available. Later came a few adjustments and improvements. From the Burlington school department and from the Brlgham academy in Bakersfield came Old-fashioned school desks and seats. Supt. Hunt opened his vacant house here to care for three grades and principal Demeritt housed a class in his home but that has been discontinued this year.
The Baptist church, which had been unused since the establishment of a united church here; was opened up and the old supper tables and benches became school desks and seats. The main auditorium of the church became a vast study hall while downstairs, where the church suppers had formerly been held, the large room was divided into three classrooms by means of canvas curtains hung from iron pipes.
One observer described the resulting scene: "Sounds from feet, books and desks echo and re-echo like distant thunder. Teachers' voices carry into other classes. Neither principal nor teachers can have any private discussions or talks on their problems. Yet in it all, Principal Demeritt has shown amazing fortitude, patience and discipline for which only admiration and praise is due him. How he can keep such good measure of discipline is a marvel.
In addition to the three "classrooms" down stairs, and the study hall on the main floor, there are two small rooms utilized upstairs, one as a typewriting room and the other as a music room. Poor sanitary facilities, narrow staircases and inadequate lightlng and heating are added to the difficulties of having only six teachers instructing and supervising more than 100 pupils.
Asked if the situation had created any special disciplinary problems, Principal Demeritt replied in the affirmative. "On the whole," he said, "both pupils ,and teachers have done remarkably well considering the handicaps but, of course, it is more difficult to keep a school functioning smoothly under these conditions than in a modern school plant with adequate and up-to-date equipment.
School In session
At first it was hard for some of the pupils to realize they were attending school even though they were in a church building or a private home. Gradually, however, they came to realize that school was in session and the ordinary rules of discipline applied. I have poticed that those who were the best students under normal circumstances, are still getting the best marks but the marks are not as high as they were formerly. Despite the fact we really had no school building when this school year began, actually more tuition pupils enrolled this year than last, 32 in all. This I consider a compliment to our teaching staff."
New Building Ready
The new academy building is already completed except for some inside work, which is expected to be finished before the end of the month. The new structure is larger in floor space than the old academy building although it is only two stories high in comparision with the previous three-story building. In addition to six classrooms on the first floor and seven on the second; the building will house a combined gymnasium and auditorium as well as the town clerk's office and town library. The new school is being financed through bonds issued by the town and also from the Bellows fund, which was responsible for the original academy building.
Native of Waterbury
Clinton W. Demeritt has been teaching in the Bellows Free academy here for the past four years, the last two as principal. He is a native of Waterbury and a graduate of Mlddlebury college in the class of 1930. He has done post graduate work in education at the University of Vermont.