The memory of the lab school on the Eastern Washington University campus in Cheney will live on in a new garden.
The Robert Reid Elementary Lab School didn’t only teach its students from kindergarten through the sixth grade – it also taught college students who hoped to become teachers. It boasted two towers in which education students from EWU and parents could observe the children in the classroom without interrupting their learning. Construction of the school began in 1958 and the school was open until June 2009.
The aging building needed an overhaul – the HVAC system was failing and other expensive upgrades were needed – and the university needed its capital facilities funds for other projects on campus. Cheney Public Schools, which supplied the school’s teachers and staff, had the option of keeping the school open for another two years, but at a cost of $150,000 a year. The district also couldn’t make the improvements to the building, since it didn’t own it.
“Major renovation was needed,” said Jack Martin, who served as the school’s principal for 17 years.
The school closed its doors and former teachers and staff immediately wanted to do something to keep its memory alive.
Pat Cogley, who taught at Reid, said a group of staff and faculty started talking about a tree or a bench.
“It turned into a much bigger thing,” she said.
The group – which became the Reid School Remembrance Campaign – began selling bricks people could have engraved to raise money for the project. There were red bricks for $100, cinnamon bricks for $500 and ivory for $1,000. Cogley said they sold 104 bricks, raising a total of $20,134.
EWU is donating the land and the labor to the project, which should begin soon.
“They are doing all of this in kind, which they didn’t have to do,” said John Cogley, Pat’s husband and chair of the Department of Physical Education, Health and Recreation at EWU.
The EWU Reid Lab School Meditation Garden will be a 29-by-20-foot horseshoe, just east of the Cheney Normal School Heritage Center, the one-room schoolhouse on campus. Pat Cogley said the garden will include basalt rocks, a fountain, benches and statues of children reading.
She added that the plants in the garden will reflect the landscaping of Cheney’s campus. Burning bushes, noted for their red color, will also be featured.
There will be a plaque installed on one of the basalt rocks with the inscription, “To recognize the roots of the past, with the wings of the future.”
Martin said that when he attended Eastern, a common rendezvous spot for students on campus was known as the “Kissing Rock.” He hopes the new garden will be a spot something like that for today’s students. A former professor at Eastern, Martin said he hopes classes can be held in the garden when the weather is nice.
Martin has fond memories of Reid School, where he was the principal when it was still run by the college. He said the students and teachers had a tight, familial bond. Students could learn at their own pace – professors from Eastern would often volunteer their time to teach students who were achieving beyond their grade-levels.
“The kids were just high achievers,” Martin said.
He added that the building was designed by Robert Reid, a professor at EWU.
“He was really a visionary,” Martin said. “Education with children was well done and it was on the cutting edge. The whole experience was special.”
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