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Dear RHS Families,

After much conversation and feedback from both families and staff, Rockville High School will be holding our traditional open house on October 7th, from 6:00 to 8:00 PM.  As a community, we will begin our evening in the RHS auditorium at 6:00 PM.  Families will then have the opportunity to follow their child's schedule and meet their classroom teachers.  This is a great opportunity to hear all that Rockville High School has to offer our students.  We are looking forward to the evening and meeting you.

In an effort to support student ownership of their learning, later this year we will introduce student led conferences.  We feel these conferences will promote student voice as they identify and communicate their academic successes and needs.  Our goal is for students to facilitate these spring meetings.  Please save  Monday, March 9th in your calendars. 

Please be reminded that our Parent Advisory Committee will be meeting in the RHS library at 6:00 this evening.


Susan Czapla, Principal


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1892 High School- 1892-1925


A Place of Their Own

Once the decision was made to build a school designed specifically as a high school, the Town of Vernon purchased property at the corner of School and Elm Streets. Plans were drawn up and presented to the Town Council for review. Most council members approved of the design for the new school. One person didn’t like the tower on the building because there were “too many buildings in town with towers.” The design was accepted and the cornerstone was laid in 1892.

The first floor of the school housed an assembly hall, homerooms for Seniors and Freshmen and male and female coatrooms. Lockers were not a part of high school life, yet. The principal’s office was placed on the front corner of the building with a view of both entrances.

On the second floor, there were homerooms for Sophomore and Juniors, the chemistry and physics labs, a library and several classrooms. Space on the third floor was used for classrooms, space for physical education classes and later rooms for typing classes.



Three educational plans were available to students. The Latin-Scientific courses were designed for students planning to attend college. Students who would finish their education at graduation chose the English-Science set of courses.

A new course of study, the Commercial program was a two-year series aimed at students who wanted a business career. These students took courses such as bookkeeping, accounting and stenography. Upon completion, students could look for a job or transfer into the other programs to graduate with a four-year degree. A small number of graduates were able to return to RHS to take college level courses.

The school year was broken into three terms: Fall (14 weeks), Winter (13 weeks) and Spring (11 weeks) for a total of 38 weeks.

Report cards were sent home monthly. Mid-year exams were introduced in 1916 and were not popular.

New courses offered students more options. In 1898 new classes included vocal music, drawing, penmanship and public speaking. In 1899 a darkroom for developing photographs was set up on the 3rd floor. By 1916 a Farm Mechanics course provided instruction in assembling farming equipment, constructing farm buildings and raising and caring for farm animals and vegetable gardens. Domestics Science class (Home Economics) appeared in the curriculum in 1917. Starting in 1922 a program of Cooperative Classes gave students training in the trades combined with classes in English, Mathematics and the Sciences.

The Parent-Teacher Night was introduced in 1911.

Local and Out-of-Town students

Students from schools in Vernon and Rockville were accepted as high school students if they passed 8th grade. Many surrounding towns did not have high school programs for their residents. Students from these town had to pass an admission test and pay tuition to attend Rockville High School. Over the years, students came from Ellington, East Windsor, South Windsor, Tolland, Enfield, Broad Brook or Bolton. Many students traveled to school by trolley. One time when heavy snow prevented the trolley from running, several motivated students hired a farmer to bring them in using his horse drawn sleigh. Other students stayed in town with family or friends. As these towns grew enough to afford their own high schools, the number of out-of-town students gradually diminished.          


Natural History Museum

A collection of natural history items was started in the first high school. Special cabinets were built to house the artifacts, many of which were donated by local people who acquired them on their travels. With the expanded space at the new school, more items were displayed. Students could study a collection of minerals from around the world, Native American artifacts from Alaska, Colorado and Wyoming along with a collection of arrowheads.       



The Men’s Debating Society was joined in 1896 by the Ladies’ Lyceum.

Debates were held on current issues including: “Should Women be Given the Vote?” and “Should Immigration be Restricted to Those Who Can Read and Write?”

The first version of The Banner was published in 1911. Called The Senior Banner it was written by members of the Senior class. The next year the name was changed to The Banner. In the format of a magazine, The Banner contained student generated content such as stories, poems, book reviews, school news items, a sports report and a joke page. Funded by subscriptions and ads from local merchants, it was published four times a year. At first The Business Men’s Association was reluctant to advertise in The Banner unless ads for saloons were accepted. Eventually they changed their minds.   

Students interested in the arts started their own organizations. The Men’s and Women’s Glee Clubs began in 1911 followed by the RHS orchestra in 1912 and the Drama Club in 1914.



Student interest school sports expanded with the new high school. A football team was formed in 1893 and consisted of 16 players. That same year students held a fund raiser for money to rent gymnasium space for student athletes in a nearby building in Rockville. In 1895 local businessmen purchased uniforms for the school baseball team. The Athletic Association for Men was founded in 1905 and the Girls’ Athletic Association was organized in 1912.         The first “R” letters given for team sports were awarded in 1915.  

The new high school lacked playing fields near the building. In 1916 through the efforts of the principal, several teachers and a group of students, land behind the nearby East School was converted into several courts used for tennis, volleyball and basketball. Both boys’ and girls’ teams were given equal time to use the courts.

Basketball for young men was already established at RHS. In 1918 a team for girls was formed.

RHS students supported their school teams. In 1920 a group of young men formed a cheering section for school games. In 1921 students sold chocolate to raise money to purchase uniforms for school teams.

Blue and Gold were first mentioned as the school colors in 1922.


Student Life

The school day started at 9am.  There was a mid-day break for lunch. Local students walked home. Out-of-town students brought lunch or ate in nearby lunch counters. School resumed at 1:5pm and concluded at 4:15pm. In 1898 attendance was encouraged by weekly awards given out by class.


Socials and Dances

In 1896 the previously named “High School Social” was changed to the “Junior Promenade.” Each December the Junior class put on a play followed by the Promenade which was given by them in honor of the Senior Class. Since there was no room inside the high school for these events, they were held in the top floor of the Memorial Building, Vernon’s Town Hall.

To help incoming members of the Freshmen class meet students from other classes, a tradition of afternoon socials was established. In later years girls from the senior class hosted a special reception for incoming freshman girls.

Winter sleigh rides and autumn hayrides organized by class remained a popular tradition.


Washington Trip

The annual trip to Washington DC, Mount Vernon and other historic sites became a tradition for members of the senior class starting in 1910. Each year excited students and their teacher chaperones traveled by bus from Rockville to Hartford. From there they boarded a train headed for the nation’s capital. After spending three days seeing the sights in Washington, they visited Baltimore and the Naval Academy at Annapolis. At the end of the day they took the night boat to Richmond, Virginia. While in the Richmond area, they went to Williamsburg, Jamestown and stopped at George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon. On the last part of the journey, the group spent a day in Philadelphia before starting the journey home.

Beginning in their junior students raised money to pay for this trip. They put on bake sales, sponsored “Movie Nights” at a local theater and sold magazines. At the Rockville Fair held in the fall, senior class students ran food tent on the fairgrounds. Students brought in homemade food for sale, cooked food to order and encouraged passersby to patronize their tent.

The Washington Trip was a much-anticipated tradition for the senior class until 1958.


World War I

The United States entered the war in April 1917. A number of young men left school to enlist in the military. Some joined the U. S. Boys Working Reserve to help the war effort by working on farms, allowing older men to join the service. Students supported the war effort by purchasing Thrift Stamps or volunteering to work with the Junior Red Cross. Students wrote essays about the impact of the war on the community in issues of The Banner.

With the drop in the number of male students, fewer school socials took place. The Washington Trip was rerouted. The senior class visited New York City instead.


1918 Influenza Epidemic

In 1918, a deadly epidemic of influenza swept across the world. More people lost their lives in this pandemic than died as a result of World War I. Communities across the United States experienced a sudden increase in sickness and death from the disease, especially in the fall. In October people in Vernon and Rockville began coming down with influenza. With no hospital in town there was no place to care for the sick and dying. Tents were set up in Talcott Park in Rockville. Schools were closed. The high school became a temporary hospital with an area set aside for the children’s ward. This variety of influenza caused a high number of deaths of children and young people, including young men from town who had left school to go into military service. By November the epidemic was over. The high school was sterilized and school resumed.


1892 RHS Becoming Overcrowded

By 1916 the increase in the number of high school students caused school leaders to recognize the limitations of the present building. Rooms were being divided to make more class space. The lack of a gymnasium restricted the physical education program. There was hardly any room for the new Domestic Science class. A suggestion was made to purchase a home across the street and convert it into classroom space. Debate arose about spending money on changing an old building when plans should be underway for a new high school.

The high school building was starting to show its age. Problems with the lighting system arose in 1916. By 1920 the massive furnace system in the basement was experiencing multiple breakdowns. For a stretch of time there was no heat on the third floor in the winter of 1920. Subsequently the furnace system failed a state inspection.


Planning for the Next High School

Town leaders collaborated with members of the George Sykes Trust to develop a plan to build a new high school.


Their solution will be featured in the next exhibit.

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Rockville High School: 150 Years of Excellence 
Brick School 1870-1892 
Vernon and Rockville in 1870 In 2020 Rockville High School will celebrate 150 years since it was established with a formal high school curriculum in 1870. Over the next school year, we will learn what school was like for RHS students from 1870 to the present day. The information and stories you will hear come from the archives of the Vernon Historical Society. So, what was life like in town in 1870? The population of Vernon was 5,446. There were 15 textile mills along the banks of the Hockanum River in Rockville, making woolen and silk cloth and employing over 1,565 people. From its start as a small mill village when the Rock Mill started in 1823, Rockville had become a thriving mill town. In addition to everyone who worked in the mills, Rockville was the economic, political and social center for the surrounding communities. Visitors to town found a large variety of shops, the courthouse, the train station, schools, churches, doctors, lawyers and a number of saloons. Vernon was comprised of many family farms and several rural villages. The bulk of the townspeople lived in Rockville with more arriving every year including workers from England, Ireland and Germany. 
Early Secondary Education in Vernon and Rockville  Happy Fun Facts Friday! In the early years of Rockville, there were a small number of students who received a public education. Before 1828 classes were held in a former soap factory. When parents realized that the school was too close to a saloon, students were moved to a private home.      The first public school in Rockville was built in 1848 on School Street. It was located where the parking lot for the Central Office building is today. The First Brick School provided an education for Rockville students from 1st to 8th grades. At that time public education was not mandatory for young people. Families were encouraged to send their children to school so they could learn to read, write and do basic math. Education beyond 8th grade was a luxury. Most young men were expected to get jobs on the farm or in a factory. Young women helped at home until they got married. The town offered an education past 8th grade to the small number of students who wanted to prepare for college, but it was an informal program of tutoring.  Things changed when Randall Spaulding came to town.  
Rockville High School Officially Founded By the late 1860s Rockville had grown tremendously in the last decade. Several new textile mills had been built. New streets were laid out followed by the construction of homes and boarding houses. The school age population expanded 
as well. The Brick School was becoming crowded. The town decided to build an elementary school on land next to the Brick School. Elementary grade students would move into the building, leaving more room in the Brick School for high school students. Town leaders recognized that it was time to provide students with an accredited high school course of study. Educator Randall Spaulding was hired to design and implement such a curriculum. By December 1870, the high school curriculum had been approved and Rockville High School was officially opened. Spaulding was the first principal and only teacher at the school. Later he would have two assistants. Several rooms on the top floor of the Brick School were set aside for the high school. There were two classrooms, an assembly room, two coatrooms and space for a library. Humble beginnings, but it was a start. 
Academics Students attended school 5 ½ days each week. Yes, that meant Saturdays. Students entering the new high school could chose from two courses of study: Latin Scientific or English Scientific. Latin Scientific was designed for students planning to go to college. Students whose education would be done when they graduated RHS selected the English Scientific courses. Subjects taught on typical day included: Latin, Astronomy, Algebra, Greek or German, Virgil, Caesar, Political Economy, Bookkeeping, Physics, Music, Writing, English language and Philosophy. Later penmanship and public speaking classes were added. There were no electives or no study halls.  New wooden desks were purchased for the high school students. These desks had writing surface that lifted up with storage below. Some members of the Town Council worried that the lids would be raised to conceal “class sleepers, idlers and mischief makers.”  
Sports and Clubs  Since there were no playing fields near the school, options for team sports were limited. In the 1890s boys formed the RHS Student Athletic Association to participate in track and field events out of town. Eventually an area behind the school was fenced off for a baseball field.  Within a few years of the school’s founding, a debating society was formed to discuss local and national current events. Students produced a school literary magazine and newspaper that was funded by ads from local merchants and sold by subscription.  A student formed chorus gave a concert in December 1891 to raise money to purchase new textbooks for the school. 
School Life Even though the numbers for each class were small by today’s standards, students showed their class spirit. In a newspaper from 1878, a student wrote about 
a senior “who was so loyal that he kept his thermometer at 78 degrees. What will be the fate of a man from the Class of 1897 if this becomes a custom?’ Through the 1870s and 1880s the size of each freshman class numbered between 20 and 30 with a third to a quarter of them completing their senior year. A breakdown of the class of 1878 reveals what happened to the class during their high school years. Starting with 22, 7 remained to graduate. “Of the 15 who left, 4 are teaching school, 2 transferred to other schools, 1 died, 1 got married, 1 works at the post office, 1 works as a clerk and 5 are at home.” School life was not all academic. Each year classes went as a group on winter sleigh rides to Tolland or to skating parties. There were yearly dances held in the assembly hall of the high school. Punch and cookies were served. Piano music was played as young men asked young women to walk sedately about the room with them. For the senior class the year was ended with a class picnic at Snipsic Lake. Students could take a ride around the lake on small steamboats or rent a canoe. 
New School Needed  By the 1890s it was evident that the school age population of Rockville was growing. High school and middle school students overflowed the rooms of the Brick School. School leaders felt that a building just for a high school was needed. The old school lacked sufficient faculty, equipment and supplies for high school courses. The curriculum should be expanded to offer courses not just to college bound students but to those interested in business careers. The City of Rockville and local mill owners want to promote Rockville as a progressive and prosperous place to attract businesses and new residents.  The next home of Rockville High School was dedicated in 1892.