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100 Interesting Ritenour Facts

  1. Ritenour’s first official superintendent was Perry S. Allen in 1911.
  2. Ritenour serves nine communities, including: Breckenridge Hills, Charlack, Edmundson, Overland, St. Ann, St. John, Sycamore Hills, Vinita Park and Woodson Terrace.
  3. On January 24, 1967, a tornado devastated parts of St. Louis County and damaged Kratz School. Do you remember the tornado? KSDK NewsChannel 5 shared old video footage of the damage:
  4. Arthur Hoech was Ritenour's longest-serving superintendent. He served for 36 years, from 1920 to 1956.
  5.  Ritenour's founding principle of educating all children was clear the first year it formed as a district in 1867, when it became the first school district in the St. Louis area to educate African-American children. This photo was taken in front of Elmwood Park School in the Ritenour School District, sometime between 1928 and 1932. (A big thank-you to Vera Cooper for submitting this photo she discovered among her family keepsakes!)
    Elmwood Park School between 1928 and 1932
  6. By 1879, Ritenour had 140 white and 29 African-American students.
  7. In 1888, Ritenour voters overwhelmingly approved building a new one-room school building for its African-American students at 2358 Lackland Ave., where the current Overland Lions Hall is located. The cost of the new elementary building, called Lackland Avenue School, was $2,240, which was the same amount it cost to build a school for white children the previous year.
  8. In 1903, the board voted to rent a second classroom in a church in the area of Elmwood Park. This rental space educated African-American children for an undetermined number of years after voters defeated several bond issues to construct another school. Although the exact year is unknown, the district did end up building another school for African-American students called Elmwood Park School, located near the intersection of Chicago Heights Boulevard and Dielman Road.
  9. Ritenour was the first district in St. Louis County to offer classes for African-American high schoolers in 1913, which was the same year it offered classes to white high schoolers in a different building.
  10. In 1958, Ritenour began integrating white students in grades K-2 at Elmwood Park School. Each year thereafter, another grade level was integrated at this school until it reached full integration in every grade level. All Elmwood students were reassigned to Wyland, New Overland and Iveland schools by the time the school closed in 1975.
    Elmwood student
  11. Ritenour was one of the first five St. Louis County school districts to accept the 1981 court-ordered St. Louis desegregation plan. Ritenour agreed to accept 50 students the first year, with the number growing to a high of 821 in 1987-1988.
  12. Ritenour was one of the first five St. Louis County school districts to accept the 1981 court-ordered St. Louis desegregation plan. Ritenour agreed to accept 50 students the first year, with the number growing to a high of 821 in 1987-1988.
  13. Today, the Ritenour community continues to embrace its diverse student population as it remains one of the only public school districts in Missouri with no ethnic majority. Approximately 1,000 Ritenour students come from families who speak Spanish, Vietnamese, French, Arabic, Amharic or over 20 other non-English languages in their homes.
  14. For more than a century, from 1847 to 1958, the location of the Administrative Center was the site of a school - first the Buck School, which became the Ritenour School, which later became the Overland School, which later became the Old Overland School, before transitioning to the Administrative Center. The buildings on the site were rebuilt, expanded and modified many times over the years. 
    Administrative Center early years
  15. The Handee House was a gathering place for Ritenour students from 1938-1968. An estimated 15,000 Ritenour students spent time eating lunch or dancing at the Handee House during its 30-year existence! It was an integral part of the Ritenour experience for thousands of students. Do you have memories of the Handee House?
  16. The Handee House was a gathering place for Ritenour students from 1938-1968. An estimated 15,000 Ritenour students spent time eating lunch or dancing at the Handee House during its 30-year existence! It was an integral part of the Ritenour experience for thousands of students, and it is the only establishment to be enshrined in the Ritenour Hall of Fame. 
    Handee House
  17. The current Ritenour Middle School was the original Ritenour High School building from 1924 to 1950.
  18. Ritenour High School students began publication of the high school newspaper, the Pepper Box, in 1923. Since then, RHS student journalists have continually put out quality newspapers, receiving recognition at the state and national level. 
  19. The location of the current Ritenour High School was the subject of much controversy and a lawsuit filed by four people in 1921. The law suit contested the decision to build the new high school on such an “isolated site” at the far eastern edge of the district. Because of legal and monetary difficulties, the school did not open until 1924.
  20. Joseph Shackelford Ritenour was a prominent landowner in the area of Lackland and Brown roads known as Ritenour Hill at the time the district was founded.
  21. Although historic records do not include the specific date in 1867 when the school district was founded, records show it was that year when Buck School (a one-room log cabin built where the current Ritenour Administrative Center is located) joined a temporary African-American school nearby to form a rural school district. Joseph Ritenour died in March 29, 1867, and the district was named in his honor.
  22. The Ritenour School District recognizes March 25 as its Founder’s Day, the birthdate of J.S. Ritenour in 1806. Learn more about Joseph Ritenour on his memorial website:
  23. The first Ritenour High School yearbook was published in 1929. A student devised the name “Melaureus” for the yearbook, a combination of the Greek word Melas, meaning “black,” and the Latin word Aureus, meaning “golden.” 
  24. The Class of 1951 was the first to graduate from the current Ritenour High School building.
  25. The Ritenour School District’s proud history began in a one-room log cabin built in 1846 for a small community of settlers. Buck School was located near the intersection of Woodson and Lackland roads. 
    Ritenour schools through the ages
  26. Ritenour’s first teacher was hired in 1846 to teach in the one-room log cabin, Buck School. Thomas W. Goldie was a recent immigrant from England, and his salary was just $20 a month.
  27. In November 1943, the board approved a plan for two elementary buildings, DeHart and Iveland. The property for DeHart School was purchased for $1,000 in Breckenridge Hills. A bid of $97,685 to build the “Lewis DeHart Eight Room Elementary School Building” was accepted in August 1944, with completion a year later in 1945.
  28. After DeHart School closed in 1980, the property was sold in 1988, and Centennial Bank was built on the site. DeHart School is memorialized by a plaque in the bank, authorized on September 8, 1988. A time capsule was discovered in the cornerstone when the building was demolished.
  29. Lackland Avenue School, located on Lackland and Sims Avenues in Overland, was the site of the first high school class for African Americans in St. Louis County in 1913. In 1915, this school was combined with Elmwood Park School, a Ritenour school for African American children built in the early 1900s at the intersection of Chicago Heights Boulevard and Dielman Road.
  30. In April 1905, a bond issue was approved to build a “wooden school” for $2,000 in St. John. About one acre of property was purchased for $200, and the first Home Heights School building opened in 1907.
  31. In May 1915, the construction of a four-room brick school for $4,000 was approved to replace the original Home Heights structure. The new building, featuring electric lights, was opened in early 1916.
  32. Home Heights School closed in 1976. The building was demolished in 1998 to develop an outstanding soccer facility on the site, now known as the Ritenour High School North Campus Athletic Field.
  33. Midland Elementary School was next door to the original high school building (now Ritenour Middle) off Forest Avenue in Charlack. The Midland School site was obtained in 1923 for $1. It was built in 1925 and closed in 1976. The school was demolished in 1991, with most of the site to be used by Ritenour Middle School for playground and recreational purposes. 
    Midland School sketch
  34. New Overland School was built in 1929 on Woodson Road in Overland. Parcels of land were purchased from ten different parties to make room for the building, which underwent three major renovations before closing in 1975.
  35. The New Overland School building was sold to the United States Postal Service in 1997. It was demolished, and it now serves as the site of the current Overland Post Office.
  36. Ritenour High School marked its first graduating class on May 17, 1918 when F.M. Bender, president of the Board of Education, presented diplomas to four graduates: Lillian Elgasser, Laura Ryder Greer, Florida Lindhorst Blaisdell and Norene Wraight.
  37. Ashby School initially consisted of a portable building which had been purchased in 1922 for use at Ritenour/Overland School. It was relocated to Ashby Road and Clarendon Avenue and housed grades 1-4 from 1936 to 1939. It was replaced by Buder School, north and east of the Ashby School, which opened in September 1939.
  38. John DeArman and Paul Doerrer each served 11 years as superintendent of the Ritenour School District. 11 years is the third-longest term any superintendent has served in the district's history, following Wendell Evans at 13 years and Arthur A. Hoech at 36 years.
  39. In 1893, 25 students and their teacher Marion Humphries posed for the earliest known picture of a Ritenour school. In the background, the shortened spelling of “Ritnor” is displayed prominently on a sign over the school door. This spelling was preferred by the painter of the sign, former board member Oscar P. Baldwin. 
  40. In 1907, taxpayers in the Ritenour community requested a raise in their taxes to help the district meet expenses due to overcrowding. 
  41. Toward the end of World War I came the beginning of an influenza epidemic which made nearly one billion people ill throughout Europe and the United States, killing twenty million. Ritenour canceled classes for three months due to the epidemic, which also took the lives of Ritenour students, including the only member of the graduating class of 1919.
  42. Between 1916 and 1920, enrollment in the Ritenour School District increased by 20 percent.
  43. In the mid to late 1960s, Ritenour was the largest high school in Missouri with over 3,000 students in grades 10-12. Ninth graders were still at the junior high at this time.
  44. In 1920, about 400 students of all grade levels were enrolled in Ritenour School, with 336 in the eight elementary rooms and 62 in the four high school rooms.
  45. At the height of the Great Depression in 1933, 200,000 teachers across the country had lost their jobs, and salaries of all professional staff in Ritenour were reduced by $10 a month, with the provision that no one was to get less than $100 per month.
  46. The Ritenour Administrative Center stands in the location of the district’s very first school, Buck School.
  47. At the time the district’s first school, Buck School, was founded, the Louisiana Purchase was made only 43 years before, and Missouri had only been a state for 25 years.
  48. In 1867, two years after the Civil War ended, the rural district of Ritenour was officially formed by joining Buck School with a temporary school for African American children.
  49. The first recorded meeting of the Ritenour Board of Directors took place at 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 2, 1878. School expenses for the following year were estimated at a total of $2,195, including wages for the two teachers totaling $1,500.
  50. A fire destroyed Buck school in 1886, and the school district built a new four-room brick house on that same site.
  51. The current Ritenour School for Early Childhood Education building was completed in 2011 and is nearly 28,000 square feet. It is a green school, meaning the building creates a healthy environment conducive to learning while saving energy, resources and money. 
  52. The Ritenour School for Early Childhood Education is nationally accredited, with certified teachers and teacher assistants who provide students with valuable learning experiences through play-based activities. Construction of the facility was funded by Proposition K, a $50 million bond issue Ritenour voters approved in 2008.
  53. The initial Marion Elementary site was purchased in 1888 for $200, with a subsequent purchase of a partial lot in 1918 for $950. More land was added in 1923, giving the district six acres of land. A $70,000 bond issue passed in January 1925 to build Marion. The school opened in 1925.
  54. Additions and renovations were made to Marion Elementary in 1953 and 1959. Passage of the 1990 bond issue resulted in demolition of the old building and replacement with the current structure at a cost of $2,625,700. A library renovation made possible by the 2008 Proposition K bond issue was completed in 2012.
  55. derived its name from the Marvin Park subdivision for which it was built to serve. A bond issue in February 1928 provided for the purchase of a site for the school. It opened in 1928 with six teachers and 302 pupils. From 1956 to 1967, more land was purchased around the site – which now consists of approximately 10 acres.
  56. With approval of the 1990 bond issue, the older portions of the Marvin Elementary building were torn down, and in 1991 the current new building was constructed for $3,102,000. A second gymnasium, costing approximately $500,000 and funded by a 2005 bond issue, was completed for the beginning of school in 2006. 
    Marvin Elementary
  57. The original four-acre plot for Iveland Elementary School was purchased for $8,000 in 1928. Two additional lots were added to the site in 1935 and 1950 for the sum of $11, completing the 4.8-acre site. A permanent one-story, four-room building was built in 1936.
  58. Passage of the 1990 bond issue enabled the demolition of part of the old Iveland Elementary School building in 1991. Additions totaling $2,471,300 were completed during that time. A library renovation, made possible by the 2008 Proposition K bond issue, was completed in 2012.
  59. Buder opened in 1939. Buder School, as it was originally known, was named in honor of Hugo F. Buder, a member of Ritenour’s Board of Education from 1932 to 1939. As president of the school board, Buder had been instrumental in obtaining the property for the new school.
  60. A 10-acre site where Kratz Elementary is currently located was acquired in 1951 for $100 and “other good and valuable considerations.” Passage of a bond issue in January 1953 provided the $314,700 to build the elementary school which opened in 1954.
  61. Kratz Elementary School was named for Charles C. Kratz, a member of the Board of Education from 1934 to 1950.
  62. Wyland Elementary opened in 1958. It was named in honor of Edward L. Wyland, then in his 27th year as a member of the Board of Education.
  63. Do you remember the Wagon Wheel football game? The tradition of the Wagon Wheel game began in 1953, when the Kiwanis clubs of Ritenour and Normandy proposed a football game to be played on Thanksgiving Day. At that time, there were only ten football playing schools in St. Louis County. In later years, Ritenour and Normandy continued to play the game in the regular season until their rivalry was ended in the mid 2000s.
  64. The wagon wheel from the traditional Wagon Wheel Football Game (an actual small wagon wheel) symbolized the traffic along St. Charles Rock Road - an old wagon road that connected the Overland Trail.
  65. The Ritenour Hall of Fame was created in 1997, ushering in the first seven inductees.
  66. Ritenour is home to one of the most dominant dynasties in the history of high school wrestling. From 1944-1974, Ritenour won an unprecedented 16 state championships. The Grubbs are the founding family of Ritenour wrestling and the patriarchs of one of the most successful wrestling programs in state history. Ritenour's 14-consecutive year state championship run, from 1948-1961, stands nationally as the second longest in the history of high school wrestling. There seldom was a time between 1936 and 1955 when there wasn’t at least one Grubbs family member on the Ritenour Wrestling team. Seven of the Grubbs wrestlers earned at least one state championship at Ritenour. The Grubbs family was awarded with Ritenour's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.
  67. Charles Lindbergh resided in the Home Heights community for a period of time while he was employed to fly airmail. On October 2, 1926, Lindbergh piloted a plane that took an aerial photograph of Home Heights School. 
    Charles Lindbergh aerial photo
  68. In November 1913, the board bills included ten cents for mousetraps and five cents for cheese.
  69. In 1960, a new field house was built at Ritenour High School and named in honor of the former high school principal O. W. Costilow, who retired the previous year.
  70. In 1967, Ritenour brought home its third state baseball championship, led by future Major League Baseball player Jerry Reuss. 
    State Baseball Champions '67
  71. The current Hoech Middle School property was obtained in 1952 for $100. Passage of a 1953 bond issue provided the funds to build Hoech Junior High School. The school opened mid-year in January of 1955.
  72. Ritenour High School has produced seven professional baseball players: Robert Scheffing, Class of 1930; Bob Schmidt, Class of 1950; Jay Hankins, Class of 1953; Bob Burda, Class of 1956; Ronald K. Hunt, Class of 1959; Jerry Reuss, Class of 1967 and Lonnie Maclin, Class of 1985.
  73. Buder Elementary opened for the first time in 1939. After closing in 1981 due to a decrease in enrollment, Buder reopened in 1986.
  74. The Ritenour School District is one of the oldest districts in the metropolitan area!
  75. There was an old myth that Buck School was destroyed on Christmas Eve 1886 when candles on the Christmas tree caught the log building on fire. A little research later showed that the fire occurred on Dec. 28 and was attributed to a defect in the flue.
  76. Enrollment in the Ritenour School District has remained steady for several years, averaging between 6,000 and 6,500 students since the 1970s.
  77. The Ritenour Pride & Promise Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization that provides supplemental funding for programs to enhance the educational excellence of the Ritenour School District. The Foundation got its start in Oct. 2010 by a group of alumni, friends and district administrators who formed an exploratory committee to determine if the district was in need of an educational foundation. It was officially certified and granted inaugural incorporation status by the State of Missouri on Jan. 3, 2011.
  78. All Ritenour schools are outfitted with solar panels to reduce our carbon footprint while saving money in the long run. Every school entrance has a television monitor that displays photos of the school’s solar panels and information about daily energy outputs at each building.
  79. Ritenour is one of only two high schools in Missouri to have a full operating radio station, KRHS 90.1 FM. The station hit the airwaves in 1976.
  80. Since 1993, because of lower enrollments, the north wing of Hoech Middle School has been used variously by Columbia College, as an early childhood center, a family resource center, temporary quarters for the Administrative Center, secondary alternative programs and currently the International Welcome Center.
  81. Ritenour's International Welcome Center, located in the North Wing of Hoech Middle School, serves middle and high school students who need intensive English Language Learner support. The center gives students the support they need in a small, intimate environment that values their home cultures.
  82. In 1923, the Ritenour School District employed 34 teachers. Today, Ritenour employs more than 800 people.
  83. Ritenour has one of the premier engineering programs in the St. Louis region. The Ritenour High School Project Lead the Way engineering department hosts an annual Girls in Engineering Day in February.
  84. Ritenour's "Ready to Work" program gives high school students real-life work experiences where they can apply academic and technical skills and develop employability skills. At the same time, employers receive assistance in hiring and training qualified employees to help grow their businesses.
  85. Under Superintendent Arthur A. Hoech’s leadership, the Ritenour School District grew from 731 students in three schools in 1920 to about 9,000 students in 15 buildings in 1956.
  86. The year Superintendent Hoech started in Ritenour, there were just four high school graduates. The year he passed away, 306 Ritenour students earned their diplomas.
  87. Ritenour's average school attendance rate each day in 1878 was less than 50 percent due to student commitments at home, such as helping with the family farm.
  88. Ritenour High School won the boys state track championships in 1985 and 1989. 
    Boys State Track First Place 1985
  89.  The 1993 Ritenour High School debate team won the state-wide Lincoln-Douglas Debate competition.
  90. The Ritenour Auditorium was completed in 2012 and is one of the premier performing arts and educational facilities in the St. Louis region. It offers professional sound, light and video systems on a 3,700-square-foot stage. The Auditorium art gallery houses student art exhibits throughout the year. It was designed and built to meet the strict standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
  91. Wendell Evans was the second-longest serving superintendent in the history of Ritenour, having served for 13 years.
  92. On April 30, 1904, a school holiday was granted in Ritenour in honor of the dedication of the World’s Fairgrounds in Forest Park.
  93. During the 1967-68 school year, Ritenour reached its peak K-12 enrollment at 14,016 students, over twice as many as the current enrollment.
  94. Because of a sharp decline in enrollment, the Ritenour School District chose to lease Midland School to the Special School District and sell two other buildings in 1976. Home Heights, Midland and New Overland Elementary schools were closed.
  95. In 1981, DeHart and Buder schools were closed due to the continuing decrease in enrollment.
  96. In 1988, for the first time since 1920, all bonds were paid off and the district was debt free. During that 68-year period, over $14 million in bonds had been passed. Conditions of the buildings were deteriorating quickly, however, and the district would need to pass a bond issue soon to keep all of the buildings open.
  97. After bond issues failed to pass in 1988 and 1989, the Ritenour School District was prepared to close Marvin, Marion and Ritenour Middle due to building safety concerns. A $30 million bond issue passed in 1990 and prevented those school closures.
  98. In 2008, Ritenour passed a $50 million bond issue (Prop K) for the construction of a permanent Ritenour School for Early Childhood Education, an auditorium and complementary fine arts facilities at the high school, along with new playgrounds for all elementary schools, two new elementary school libraries and additional safety, security and technology upgrades.
  99. In 1977, Patricia Lewis Williamson wrote about the history of Ritenour in her book, "Ritenour… Our First 132 Years." This project began when board member David Bell suggested the district commission some sort of plaque with the names of all community residents who had served on Ritenour’s board of education. Looking back through minute books dating to 1878 prompted Williamson to write a more comprehensive book about Ritenour through the years.
  100. The Ritenour School District’s rich history is forever entwined with the history of Overland. The Overland Historical Society, located at 2404 Gass Ave, has an incredible display of historical Ritenour artifacts ranging from decades-old yearbooks to spiritwear and everything in between. Be sure to check out their historic log cabin sometime, and immerse yourself in Overland and Ritenour history.
Overland Historical Society Log House