With acknowledgement to the 1971 School Centennial Booklet
Compiled by Margaret McMullen
Springfield, formerly known as Kowai Pass, has had a school since the beginning of 1871, following a meeting of local residents held in Bailey’s Accommodation House on 3 March 1870. The new school which cost under $600 opened with 18 pupils & their teacher, Mr Peter Cheyne, whose salary was $260 per year. By the end of the year, when the school received an enthusiastic report from the School Inspector, the roll had risen to 30.
At this time Kowai Pass was a township with a local coal industry and brickworks soon to be built. There were 5 blacksmiths in the vicinity of the township, one hotel & race meetings were already being held at the Domain. Since the discovery of gold in Westland there had been a steady stream of travellers heading west, with a weekly mail service to the coast by light coach to Kowai Pass, by horseback to the top of Arthur’s Pass & by runner as far as Hokitika, but change was coming. In 1874 the Midland railway line from Christchurch reached Sheffield. Most of the small farmers in the area were glad to supplement their incomes by working on roads or the railway, and during this time the school roll began to rise markedly.
By the beginning of 1872, under a new teacher, William McClure, the roll had reached 56, but attendance was poor and until 1877 few pupils progressed past Std.3. In that year the roll rose to 99 & a second classroom was added. In 1879, the same year that Kowai Pass changed its name to Springfield, the school was closed for 3 months because of a diphtheria epidemic, but in the same year there were 25 pupils in Std.6 & all passed the Proficiency Examination.
Also in 1879, the Malvern Water Race was opened, the tunnel of which was lined with half a million bricks made at the local brickworks. In 1880 the school roll reached 111, with 3 teachers, the head teacher, Mr Moody being paid $333 annually, and his assistants Miss Eiby & Miss O’Shaunnessy being paid $179 and $32 annually respectively.
Although schools had also been established at Russell's Flat and Kowai Bush, the roll continued to rise at Springfield to peak at 164 in 1889.
As the railway pushed further westward the fortunes of Springfield began to decline and the district settled down to be the centre of a farming area, with railway construction & road maintenance still contributing to its economy. The school roll had shrunk to 59 in 1900, with 2 teachers, but in 1908 a new school residence was built. In 1930 the old school was abandoned & a new one (the present senior room & library) was opened on the present site.
The pool was completed in 1954, & a new classroom (the present junior room) & the tennis court were finished in time for the 1959 District Centennial celebrations, Bicycle sheds were added in 1970, & further extensions to the school were added.
In recent years the Springfield community has had to adapt to change with the cutting back of railways staff & the selling off of railway houses. However, school numbers have actually risen in recent years & now average 35-40.
Later School Committees have extended the playing area & installed a sandpit & adventure playground. With the mountains as a backdrop, a well-equipped & staffed school, and a very supportive community behind them, the pupils of Springfield School are fortunate indeed.