HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) — The fall semester is ending. Hutchinson High School students are closing their laptops, putting away their textbooks, and looking forward to Christmas break.
Many of them are also looking forward to the final three days of physical education class.
That’s when the tradition continues. A unique tradition that started at Hutchinson High over a half-century ago.
The pre-Christmas custom of gathering in the auxiliary gym and square dancing.
“It’s huge at Hutch High. It’s a great tradition. I think this is the 56th year,” said Tina Johnson, Hutchinson High Physical Education Department Head.
“Yeah, it’s the highlight of the last week of school before Christmas break. Everybody looks forward to it,” said Hutchinson High Senior Leader Chloe Inskeep.
Tom Clark, a retired Hutchinson High physical education, health, and social dance teacher, returns to lead and teach each class how to swing, promenade, and Do Si Do.
“I come back because, for me, I just want to be with kids again. To see and capture some of their spirit and take a little bit of it with me and share it. Because I think it’s important to see kids the way they really are. Kids, they have a great heart. They have a great heart,” said Clark, who also coached basketball.
“It’s such a great feeling on the inside. What it does for your heart as a teacher to watch kids come together and treat each other with so much respect is just amazing,” said Johnson. “And to see the laughter in kids in the gym at school is amazing.”
There are anywhere between 300 and 350 students organized into “squares” on the gym floor each hour.
“It forces the students to connect and interact with each other. And just like have fun and step outside of their comfort zone,” said Inskeep.
“So, we had 300 kids dancing at one time in this gym. That kind of makes your heart full, you know. You try to give them something, and then if you give them something and build relationships. That’s what it’s all about is relationships,” said Johnson.
“It’s just an amazing time at Hutch High. It’s really unique to our school. It’s one of my favorite two traditions at Hutch High, and it’s just really fun,” said Hutchinson High Senior Leader President Titan Heneha.
Clark taught at Hutchinson High for about 25 years. He’s been retired for seven but returns every December and plans to pass the square dancing torch to current physical education teacher Andrew Schroter.