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January 18, 2013

SEGREGATED TOGETHER: Students learn about ‘separate but equal’ in trip to Division Street School

(Continued)

NEW ALBANY —

“I’m just trying to get them to understand how it was,” Scott said. “They may have some idea, but I don’t think they really have good hold on that. We just want them to understand what it was with segregation.”

In the room where first-, second- and third-graders were taught, a variety of displays showed how segregation took place with school policies and outside of the school.

One new exhibit features seating from The Grand Theater in New Albany. A chair for white patrons folded down with a padded seat and back, armrests on either side and a patterned blue carpet underfoot. 

The seat next to it was an original piece of where black patrons sat, a thin wooden bench with painted seat numbers.

Vic Megenity, one of the founding members of the Friends of Division Street School group, said as one of the only field trips students get in the district, it’s an immersive experience that teaches them on a different level.

“It’s more than a field trip,” Megenity said. “The kids come here, spend a full school day here and go to class like they would have back then, as much as we can simulate it, 100 years ago.”

And he said students get a pretty full experience. The classroom where fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders were taught simultaneously has three walls of slate chalkboards. The connected rows of wood and metal desks in front of the classroom don’t move, which he said prevented concepts like group projects.

Smith said the amenities they’re used to — such as SMART Boards, computers and other electronic aids — are completely absent.

But aside from that, she said they come away from the school with a new appreciation for something else they either didn’t notice or took for granted — nonsegregated classes.

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