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Wednesday, 10 December 2014 10:57

USD 480 Superintendent Paul Larkin, far right, gives his opening remarks to the assembled dignitaries and citizens prior to the groundbreaking ceremony for two of the district’s new schools being built. In all, five new schools are included in the $127 million project. L&T photos/Larry Phillips

 

Groundbreaking for Seymour Rogers Middle School on same day he was buried 101 years ago

By ELLY GRIMM and LARRY PHILLIPS

• Leader & Times

 

Local dignitaries gathered on a cold, brisk morning Tuesday just off east Pancake Boulevard to witness an historic event for Liberal and Seward County.

Along with dignitaries were representatives of USD No. 480, DLR Architects, JE Dunn Construction and Citizens For Responsible Growth – all to witness the official groundbreaking near the location where two new schools will be built. They are part of the $127 million expansion to the district that was approved by 76 percent of the voters earlier this year.

A total of five new schools will be included in the deal.

USD 480 Superintendent Paul Larkin addressed the crowd with opening remarks.

“Many years ago, not far from where we stand, a pioneer took a shovel, sunk it deep into the hard prairie soils – his name was Seymour Rogers,” Larkin began. “And in that first shovel of dirt, he established a foundation for a community.

“He was digging to find water and with it, the possibility of a town. He dug deeper and deeper and after 88 feet, he found the water he was searching for,” Larkin continued. “As travelers came by his sod house and general store, they knew how rare it was to find a well with water and how expensive it was for a rancher to part with it.

“But Rogers did the unthinkable thing – gave it away. Travelers would respond with ‘that’s mighty liberal of you.’

“As more and more pioneers made their way down the dusty trail to this part of the High Plains, it was time to give the town a name – and they chose Liberal because of Rogers’ generosity,” he said.

“As time went by, others continued to come in search of water or a piece of land to call their own. Many have sunk a shovel into this prairie to build a house, a church, a business and even a school – they were looking forward to preparing a future.

“Today, once again, shovels will be placed into the prairie, taking another step in the future of this community.

“This step will continue the quest for knowledge by building an institute of learning and as the children thirst for knowledge, they will find it as refreshing as a cool drink of water on a hot summer day right here at Prairie View Elementary and Seymour Rogers Middle School.

“It is our hope the foundation we lay here today will have the same legacy for the future of its students that Rogers’ well has for this community. We thank you all for coming to share another sign of the generosity of a community dedicated to the future of its students,” Larkin concluded.

Prior to the actual groundbreaking ceremony, USD 480 Board of Education President Chris Jewell also spoke.

“Welcome everybody and thank you for coming out. This is not just a groundbreaking ceremony for Prairie View Elementary and Seymour Rogers Middle School but a new era,” Jewell said. “This is a historic beginning for U.S.D. 480, and I want to thank my fellow board members for having the vision and forward thinking, the community, the design teams.

“It was roughly a year ago when we started looking at this, and it seems like a long time ago we started with the design and vision committees moving forward with this.

“So this is a new chapter for USD 480, the City of Liberal, the county, and I am really excited for this,” he said. “And again, I want to thank my fellow board members and those on the board before for all of this and the community for this opportunity to move forward and be a part of all this.”

Board members, architects, construction officials and volunteers with Citizens For Responsible Growth grabbed shiny, chrome-plated shovels and proceeded with the groundbreaking ceremony.

“This is truly an historic moment for Liberal,” one bystander was overheard telling a friend.

One historic irony of the event is considering that one of the new schools will be named after Liberal’s founder – Seymour Rogers Middle School – and the ceremony Tuesday was on the exact day – Dec. 9, 1913 – 101 years ago that Rogers was buried in Carthage, Mo., at the age of 89.

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About The High Plains Daily Leader

The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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