On March 22, 1884, a few Ramona settlers met at a private residence to discuss organizing Ramona’s first school. Chairman of the committee was Mr. J.M. Crow, and Joseph Miller was appointed Secretary. Other officers were: Mrs. Al Merilatt, Director, Joseph Miller, Clerk, and J.R. Noll, Treasurer.
Three months later, an election was held to vote for a bond issue, so a school building could be constructed. The first grade school was built a mile west of Ramona, on the corner of what is now 360th and Pawnee. School District #90 was established that same year. Originally the school was called Noll School, since the school was built on J.R. Noll’s land, but two years later when the town was formed in 1887, and named Ramona, the school name was changed to Ramona School.
Some stories say that J.B. Shields was the first teacher at this school, and others say it was W.M. Brock. In the Ramona centennial history book, published in 1987, it is believed that Mr. Shields was first, and Mr. Brock, followed.
Mr. Shields lived four miles southeast of Ramona, and was often seen walking to school, no matter what the weather. He was so revered by the community that his last name was considered when the town was being named. However, there was already a Shields, Kansas on the railroad line, and so the name Ramona was selected, instead.
In 1899, the school site was changed from out of town, to a plot of land on the southeast corner of Ramona, on land owned by J. M. Potter. The community soon outgrew the building, and it was sold to the Church of the Brethren. They moved the building north of the schoolyard—between the school and the Strickler residence, on the north corner of the block—and remodeled the building as their church. A two-story school building was constructed to take its place. In 1905, it was struck by lightening and could no longer be used.
Out of the ashes of the burned school building came a much larger building with two stories, and four large rooms. In 1909 a high school was added to the elementary school that was already in this building. The first classes to graduate were in the spring of 1913.
By 1924 the school was, once more, too crowded, making it necessary to build two brick school buildings—one for grade school pupils, and another for high school students. School Superintendent Richard Allen, initiated the first steps in the process by appointing a committee of three businessmen—Dr. J.H. Saylor, Jess Buttel and J.H. Brubaker—to promote the building program. The first step was to consolidate the five surrounding rural districts with the “home district” #90 that was established in 1884. Meetings and elections were held, but in the end, only one of the rural districts—Lincoln—chose to consolidate with Ramona.
These two districts voted to build a new grade school in Ramona, costing approximately $35,000. The school was completed and occupied on January 10, 1926. This modern building had two stories, with seven classrooms, two restrooms and a steam heating system.
A high school building was also needed for the community, so organizers had many meetings establishing the boundaries of the school district, which had to be approved by the county commissioners. On April 20, 1925, the vote was held and a large majority was in favor of such a school district. The school board was authorized to issue and sell bonds in the amount of $45,000. Work began that summer, and the school was completed a year later.
The building was a wonderful educational facility. The first floor had an academic classroom, a two-room suite for Home Economics and the Manual Training Departments, and a large auditorium/gymnasium. The second floor contained three classrooms, a study hall (capable of seating 100 pupils), a library, rooms for the Science Department, the superintendent’s office and a balcony for the auditorium.
On February 19, 1926, the grand opening of the school took place when the new Rural Ramona High School was dedicated. About 600 people attended the celebration, and everyone came with baskets of food, and dinner was served cafeteria-style. Lunch was followed by a program in the auditorium.
The first year the enrollment was 42; in following years the high school enrollment would swell to more than 60, on average. The first class to graduate from the four-year high school were as follows: Oscar Christenson, who began his teaching career in the Ramona system and retired from a professorship at the Oregon State University in Monmouth, Oregon; George Haire, farmer; Harry Harmon, career accountant, Topeka, Kansas; Balford Shields, attorney, Chicago, Illinois; Simon Shields, farmer; Roland Urie, doctor, Parsons, Kansas; Viola Musick, teacher, Mankota, Minnesota; Ernest and Iva (Ecker) Musick, mercantile store in Canton, Kansas.
Athletics was always popular among the students and the community, but in the early days the facilities were quite limited. Basketball began on a dirt and sand court in the schoolyard, and games were held in the livery barn loft, the Brubaker garage, and the second floor of the old Eskeldson Hardware building. When the new high school opened, the large gymnasium was a wonderful gift to the students and the community.
Basketball games drew townspeople to the school facility in the winter, and during the summer, baseball games were held in the school field or at the south end of town in a large field (today, known as Freedom’s Field). Competitions between area schools—especially with neighboring Tampa teams—were particularly competitive.
There was a lot of competition between Ramona and Tampa—they didn’t like each other at all. We’d be playing a game and make a goal, and we’d run by the Tampa coach and say, ‘Whadaya think of that, Frank?’
John Heiser, RHS graduate, basketball player 1949, back row center - Ramona News, 2005
My uncle Clarence Bentz worked hard to get me to agree to go to school in Tampa so that I could play on the Tampa team. Every Saturday night he’d ply me with banana splits and milk shakes, and talk about how great it would be for me to play for Tampa. Doc Moffitt also tried to get me to switch from Ramona to Tampa. Eventually, I did go to school in Tampa, but that ‘switching business’ put me on the s--- list for many years!
Tony Meyer, Ramona student who transferred to Tampa to play basketball (Ramona News, 2005)
When I was in high school the Red Chiefs (Ramona’s team) only beat the Tampa Tigers once—and that was because Tony (Meyer) wasn’t playing. He had the mumps!
We played Tampa and beat them four times, in state tournaments and regular league play. After I graduated from Ramona High I became coach of the team, because during the war there was a shortage of men around, and no one was available to coach. They needed someone to take the boys to the games, and I had a ’29 Ford pick-up; I’d load it full. The bus would also go to the games, but it was filled with cheerleaders and spectators. There was gas rationing in those days, and we had to apply for gas stamps. It helped that I was farming, because I could get rations much easier with the pick-up than with a regular automobile. I had to do farming, plus run to all those ball games—we were always having blowouts with the tires, because they were such poor quality. The army got the best tires, you know.
Lauren Brunner, RHS graduate, coach of the Red Chiefs (Ramona News, 2005)
In the 1950s, enrollment was beginning to decline; more towns were unable to support their schools on their own, and consolidation became the solution. The last graduating class at Ramona High was 1957. The consolidated school—serving Ramona, Tampa, Lost Springs, Lincolnville, Burdick—was named Centre. The grade school facility was located in Lost Springs; the high school was built on Highway 77, southeast of Lost Springs.
Declining numbers and impending building repairs to an old structure, brought about another “consolidation” of sorts, in 2011. The Centre Elementary (K-4) in Lost Springs closed, and the students relocated to the high school facility on Highway 77. The school is now called Centre K-12.