Lou Sterling, Chair of the Hanover School Board during the building of the school, said it all began with plans to move the high school students to a spot on Reservoir Rd. It was felt it would be good to let them gain their own identity by removing them from the proximity of both the Dartmouth, student and the primary grade students. When they lost the vote by a small margin, Lou said, “I will never be involved in public schools again.” However, when it came time for the election of school board members, and no one had stepped up, Lou ran for another term and won handily.
John Kemeny, who later became President of Dartmouth College, was also on the School Board. Needing more space, they decided to move the elementary school to the new site, so they hired a company from White Plains, NY to develop some plans. The plan was voted down, again by a small margin, which was unexpected. The design was considered too posh.
This time, when they went back to the drawing boards, they turned to Roy Banwell, a local architect with three children in the school system. Roy, in a recent interview, said, “I didn’t necessarily have the experience to build a public building, so I went to Fleck and Lewis Architects and asked why don’t we combine our knowledge?” Banwell was the designer and Fleck and Lewis, the “…backbone and substance of the organization”.
Selecting a Building Advisory Committee from a cross-section of the community, recommendations were considered for the new school. When looking at designs for the building, Roy explained, “…we wanted an entrance that would give a welcoming feel to children, not one that was formal or,disciplined in appearance”. The entrance today, with its double . wide doors opening to a front hallway and a large glassed-in showcase filled with children’s artwork, was conceived in 1968, and still welcomes children and the public to the school today, forty years later.
Some of the unique features of the school, built to accommodate grades K-4, included a floor plan with pod areas, in all four clusters of classrooms, each one open to the next. It was built with the concept of team teaching in mind, so between each room was a folding curtain-like door. In an interview, Ruth Hubbard, retired 2nd grade teacher, said, “This was good if you really got along with the other teacher, as I did. Though sometimes my room was a lot nosier than hers.” Willy Black said that when she taught kindergarten next to Jack Wilde who taught 1st grade, they mostly kept ~e folding doors closed. The students couldn’t see each other but if it,got noisy, so they could hear each other. When the doors were closed there was a gap between the floor and the bottom of the folding screen, and if the Kindergarten children got too loud, Jack would push a little truck under the curtain which carried the message, “Too noisy!”
Another unique feature was the sunken “Multi” area. Over the years the Multi served as the center of the school, home to plays, performances, small group work….anything that happened outside the classroom, happened in the Multi. It served as a wonderful school-wide shared space. Dr. Zimmerman said that even 40 years after he had moved on from Hanover and had retired to become a consultant, whenever he was involved with a new building, he would use the Ray School as an example of a public educational facility that works.