Banner School going strong in 130th year

Kathleen Kouba Chance, who graduated in 1950; Karen Boorsma Doughty, a 1955 graduate; and Jo Ann Kouba Bomhoff, class of 1952, look at class pictures from their days at Banner School during the school’s 130th anniversary celebration Sunday. Photo/Chris Eversole

More than 100 people celebrated the 130th birthday of the Banner School on Sunday, reminiscing about how its strong value prepared them for life, viewing their school pictures and rejoicing in the school’s continuing success.
They included Don Bornemann, the oldest graduate attending, and Kathleen Kouba Chance, who is six months younger.
Both graduated in 1950, when the country school, located between Yukon and El Reno on Banner Road, was one room and went to the 12th grade.
They were in school when World War II ended, and a teacher rang the school’s bell continuously celebrating the victory.
Phil Bornemann, who graduated in 1958, recalled that while he was a student, the wood-frame school burned, leaving only the bell and the two outhouses.
Among the multiple generations attending the event were Diana Radcliff Scott, who graduated in 1965, and her twin granddaughters, Ashley and Erin Scott.
After graduating from the school, which today goes only to the eighth grade, the twins moved to Yukon High School.
“It was big, and we didn’t know anybody,” Erin Scott said.
The girls are doing well at Yukon High, and they are focusing on sports medicine.
Indeed, Banner graduates are highly successful, based on the strong preparation they receive, noted School Board President Lynette Middleton.
Middleton and her husband moved to the Banner School District because they wanted their children to have a strong emphasis on values and experience a low student-teacher ratio.
“We sought it out so our children could get more personal attention,” Middleton said.
Since the Middleton family moved to the school district, enrollment has grown.
When their son, Parker, entered kindergarten, it was 100.
Parker has since graduated from Banner, and enrolment has increased to 300.
Residential development is growing, based on the ability to work in the Oklahoma City metro while sending kids to a country school.
“It’s not a far commute anymore,” Middleton said.
The school district has a strong tax base, boosted by new homes and several businesses that serve the oil and gas industry, including the Halliburton El Reno Field Camp.
The district was able to build its newly completed cafeteria without a bond issue by saving money in its building fund, Superintendent Mike Prior said.
Recruiting staff goes well because the district offers good benefits, including a Christmas stipend, and staff likes the atmosphere, Prior said.
In addition to 4-H and basketball, school activities now include track, archery and chess.
There’s talk of adding volleyball, said Lori Merhib, who is the child nutrition director and wears several other hats.
“We’re molding students into citizens who have old-fashioned values by holding them to a higher standard,” Merhib said.
The event ended with the ringing of the school bell, which had been refurbished by parents Andy Flynn, Matt Dodson, Kevin Piersall and Adam Slattery.
Don Bornemann, the oldest living graduate, had the honoring of ringing it for the crowd.

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