Dedication of the Lawrence school districtÃ¢ÂÂs sixth preschool classroom Friday brought smiles to the face of students and educators.
The 16 children in the new Ray Wilbur Classroom at East Heights School, 1430 Haskell Ave., certainly enjoyed the spotlight, performing two songs while wearing painted paper hats.
Guest-of-honor and the classroomÃ¢ÂÂs namesake, Wilbur, a math teacher at Lawrence High School for 31 years, cherished the moment as well.
Ã¢ÂÂThis seems like the perfect occasion,Ã¢ÂÂ said Brad Tate, former LHS principal. Ã¢ÂÂThe love and appreciation for the needs of the very young children in this neighborhood motivated the creation of this new childhood classroom (and) is perfectly complemented by its dedication to Dr. Ray Wilbur.
Ã¢ÂÂDr. Wilbur is truly one of the greatest teachers IÃ¢ÂÂve had the opportunity to know.Ã¢ÂÂ
William Dann of Lawrence donated $50,000 to the Lawrence Schools Foundation to support the additional classroom, which has been operating since August. He has donated at least $250,000 to support preschool classrooms in the district.
The six early-childhood classes in the district serve 104 children, including 36 at East Heights. The district also has two at Centennial School, and one each at Pinckney and Woodlawn schools.
These 4-year-old students receive academic and social instruction that prepares them for kindergarten.
Since the first classroom for at-risk children was started at East Heights in 1996, about 500 students have gone through the program.
Wilbur, who retired from LHS in 1995 and now teaches at Bishop Seabury Academy, said he was honored by the dedication. He thanked colleagues, family and friends.
He expressed gratitude to his wife, Marian, who taught English and history at West Junior High School for 28 years before retiring in 1995.
Ã¢ÂÂThe best teacher IÃ¢ÂÂve ever had,Ã¢ÂÂ Wilbur said.
East Heights Principal Gary Johnson said the dedication offered students and staff an opportunity to concentrate on something pleasant, rather than the school boardÃ¢ÂÂs apparent willingness to close the school. There has been talk of turning East Heights into the districtÃ¢ÂÂs early-childhood headquarters.
Ã¢ÂÂToday was a celebration,Ã¢ÂÂ said Johnson, who had Wilbur as an algebra teacher and basketball coach. Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂve got the utmost respect for him.Ã¢ÂÂ
Other classrooms are named for former educators Jesse Milan and Gertrude Ruttan, Douglas County District Judge Jean Sheperd and civic activist Anna Ã¢ÂÂPeteyÃ¢ÂÂ Ballard Cerf.
An infant-toddler Even Start classroom is dedicated in honor of LaTonya Farmer and Brandy Martin, Lawrence teenagers who died in an arson fire in 1993.