Schutz School for the children of United Presbyterian missionaries in Egypt opened in September, 1924, starting on the 19th of the month with 17 students enrolled. Mary and Ellen Smith had been left at the school by their parents who returned to Nasir in the South Sudan. Other boarders came from the Nile Delta towns of Benha, Fayoum, Tanta and Alexandria. The eldest student was a ninth grader. Twins Ruth and Robert Galloway were the youngest boarders at age seven and a half.
Faculty and Staff
Two teachers, Elizabeth Kelsey and Bernice Warne, arrived from the United States on September 17th. Both were recent graduates of Muskingum College in Ohio,recruited by a member of the Egypt Mission who was in the United States on furlough the previous year. Miss Kelsey taught mathematics, history, Latin and music, and Miss Warne taught all levels of reading, English, science, geography, physical education and art. Madame Barbara Demidoff, a Russian émigré whose family fled Russia at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, taught French to all the students. Two short term teachers from the Egypt Mission schools in Alexandria, Miss Jones and Mr. Latowsky, contributed some additional music instruction. The Rev. Mark Roy, the Chairman of the Schutz School Committee of Management, was named superintendent of the school. He lived on campus with his family and supervised the staff and students, while fulfilling his Mission assignment in evangelism in Alexandria.
Finding someone suitable to manage the boarding department was not easy. There was some discussion in the Schutz School Committee about asking the missionary mothers of the students to take turns in this responsibility, but the committee noted that this would add substantial work to their existing responsibilities. Just before the school was scheduled to open, the Committee hired a British woman married to a local Greek, Mrs. Harris Kithreotis. She agreed to live on the Schutz campus and visit her husband and daughter on her days off. She became known familiarly as Mrs. Harris.
The Egypt Mission’s decision to house the school at Schutz was closely tied to the suitability of the existing property at 51 rue Schutz, Ramleh District. The Schutz property was purchased by the Mission in 1898 as a summer vacation location for missionaries. In 1919, the Egypt Mission purchased a former World War I prisoner of war camp a mile away, in Sidi Bishr. The hotel at Schutz was then used by single and elderly missionaries while Mission families used the mat houses at the Sidi Bishr camp. In 1923, the Mission, citing a shortage of summer housing, decided to raze the existing hotel and put up a larger building. The new structure had four stories with two one-family apartments on each floor. A pass-through garage was located in the center of the ground floor. Its entrance was located directly opposite the gate in the wall along Ishak Street. The compound also had a tennis court, parking areas, and several small storage and work sheds against its outside walls. In January 1924 the Mission purchased the property adjoining to the east, expanding the total area of the Schutz property from one to nearly two and a half acres. The second property consisted of gardens, a pond, work sheds, a parking garage on the south wall, and one large single-room building that had been used as a receiving room (salemlik) by the previous owner. A low wall separated the two parts of the Schutz campus, but openings were made for easy passage between them. In February 1925, the Mission began construction on a second tennis court.
The main building on campus, used during the summer for vacationing Mission families, housed the boarding department, staff accommodations and classrooms. Before the students arrived for the first day of school, the Mission staff had to move lots of furniture, transforming some of the apartments into class rooms and group dining areas, the rest into dormitory rooms, creating temporary walls using curtains hung across living rooms, and dulabs (armoires) pushed together. Roy had ordered student desks from the United States, and these were attached to wooden runners that would facilitate moving them at the end of the year when the rooms would be converted back to living quarters the following summer. The Roys lived on the top floor, students along with Miss Kelsey and Miss Warne lived on the second floor, dining room and kitchen were located on the first floor, and classrooms were on the ground floor.
In its first year, the boarding department consisted of four rooms for students, three students in each room. Each of the two teachers shared a flat with students, and although neither was hired to serve as housemother, they ate all meals with the students, monitored nap times, made certain the children got outside in the afternoons for play time and sports, and supervised homework and bedtimes. The Roy children lived in their parents’ apartment but were considered part of the boarding department. Boarders were required to make their beds and clean their rooms each day, and the staff instituted daily room inspections, giving out a merit for each day that a room passed inspection and its occupants were well-behaved all day. The first room to receive ten merits was awarded the Schutz banner to keep until another room earned ten merits. There was a daily schedule with designated times for rising, meals, classes and bedtime.
While the teachers assumed primary responsibility for the students in their rooms and classrooms, Mrs. Harris planned meals, supervised the kitchen staff, and oversaw cleaning and laundering. She also took students on outings to the beach, at least one movie and a Russian ballet performance in Alexandria.
The Schutz campus and the surrounding area allowed the children abundant space for a variety of outdoor activities. Some of the older students played tennis with the missionaries who came out to Schutz from Alexandria every Saturday afternoon for tea and tennis. Baseball was also a popular pastime this year. There were frequent picnics at the beach and at the Mission camp at Sidi Bishr. Older students had occasional visits to the cinema, concerts and opera in Alexandria. Some visiting parents brought some rabbits, giving Schutz School its first pets.
Following the example of the Egypt Mission school for missionary children in Assiut, the Schutz School Committee ordered textbooks that were listed in the Monmouth, Illinois, schools’ curriculum. The greatest challenge for the teachers at the beginning of this first year of the school was determining the academic levels of the 17 students who came from several different schooling experiences. Some had attended French, British and German schools, and several had been taught at home by their mothers. All of them were good readers, but were less advanced in mathematics. The teachers had to do some after-school tutoring to bring some students up to their appropriate grade levels.
The teachers introduced the idea of a school newspaper, the “Bric-a-Brac,” which was published monthly and contained essays, fiction and news of student activities. Upper-level English class students were required to submit contributions. The articles were typed up with five or six copies, students made covers, and the booklets were tied together with raffia. Existing copies provide a good description of the little school’s activities and give a good sense of the atmosphere at Schutz School.
From the beginning of Schutz School, staff and students followed the daily religious disciplines their families practiced at home, with daily morning and evening devotions and prayers said before meals. On Sundays, the entire school attended St. Andrew’s, the Scottish Presbyterian Church in down town Alexandria. Sunday evenings, the children participated in Vesper services, and the teachers drilled the older children on questions from the Westminster Catechism.
Schutz students celebrated American holidays in the ways they would have celebrated in the United States. At Halloween, there was a costume party, at Thanksgiving a big turkey dinner shared with the American Mission community in Alexandria. The Egypt Mission students went home for the Christmas holiday after seasonal celebrations on campus. The students who came from further away were invited home for vacation by their friends. Everyone celebrated the end of the academic year with an evening of entertainment for parents and other visiting missionaries. When school let out for the summer, the students left the campus to rejoin their parents at home or went straight to Sidi Bishr for the summer vacation months.
From its beginning, Schutz School was to be a boarding school that provided both primary and secondary education. Although the elementary school for missionary children in Assiut and the American school in Cairo for any local American students continued to operate, it is clear that the Schutz School was considered by both the Egypt Mission Association and the Board of Foreign Missions as the preferred school for missionary children in Egypt as well as for children of missionaries in the Sudan and Ethiopia (then called Abyssinia) who chose to send their children to Schutz. The Board of Foreign Missions recognized that the children’s allowance, granted to parents for each child, even if used in total by the school, would not be sufficient to cover the costs of operating the school, and it agreed to provide an appropriation for operating costs and upkeep. Children not affiliated with the United Presbyterian missions would be admitted only with Schutz School Committee approval, and would be charged tuition of LE 50 for primary and LE 70 for high school.