Lauderdale school remembered

By Anne Holzman

A year ago, the city of Lauderdale bought the old Lauderdale School building and site from the Chinese Christian Church that had owned the building since 1975. Former teachers and students gathered to remember their years in the building and to explore it once more on a tour.

Kathy Bernstrom Lerfald organized last year’s tour and offered her home as an informal depository of memorabilia for the reunion. Now, as Lauderdale prepares to sell the property for development, Lerfald is compiling stories and photos, hoping to turn them into a book about the school.

For the 2018 tour, Lerfald recruited 10 tour guides and arranged for a “school lunch” that families could enjoy in the company of a former teacher. Lerfald estimated “over 240 people” attended the tour. 

Former Lauderdale School teacher Kay Storgatz displayed a quilt given to her as a retirement gift, with class photos from every year printed on the fabric. “It was really popular,” Lerfald said.

Now, Lerfald (who attended the school in1952-59) has a pile of old class photos, report cards, news clippings, and other memorabilia. She plans to produce a history of Lauderdale School, drawing on her experience of self-publishing family history books.

Kathy Bernstrom Lerfald. Photo by Anne Holzman

Shortly after the 2018 tour, Lerfald wrote an article about the school for a newsletter for retired Roseville teachers. According to the article, Lauderdale School was annexed by Roseville schools in 1949. (That is also the year that Lauderdale was incorporated as a city.) Some of the teachers who lost their classrooms when the school closed in 1974 transferred to other Roseville schools.

As a result of that transfer, Lerfald said, the teacher network has stayed intact, and that has been integral in spreading the word about her history project. “It was surprising how many teachers came and participated [in the tour],” Lerfald said. “It was great!”

Lerfald said the very earliest students in the area attended the Gibbs school, which is now part of the nearby Gibbs Farm Museum historic site. A one-room schoolhouse was built in 1894 at Spring and Eustis streets on land owned by William Henry Lauderdale. The city would eventually be named after him.

The existing building began as a two-room structure on the same site in 1915, with additions in 1922 on the north side and in 1937 on the south side of the original building.

Lerfald said she hopes more students, teachers, and other people with memories of the school will get in touch with her and contribute to her book. There is a Lauderdale School MN Facebook page with more information. Memorabilia and contact information can also be submitted to staff at Lauderdale City Hall. 

City Administrator Heather Butkowski said in early April that she anticipated a mid-May public hearing on the senior housing proposed for the site.

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