Roger B. Chaffee HS (formerly Kindley HS) History

Opened: 1960
Closed: 1995

The school was located on the Naval Air Station and was housed in a fairly modern building. Before the base offered older dependents schooling on base, the military and civilian students went to local schools on the island such as Whitney Institute, Mount Saint Agnes or Warwick Academy. The school was originally called Kindley High School.

The high school consisted of a large two-story building with well-equipped classrooms, a large, carpeted library, special rooms for fine arts and a cafeteria. The cafeteria was shared with the elementary school. A building project that was completed in 1983 included a gymnasium and air-conditioning for the high school.

In the early 60’s Kindley High School was established and offered classes for the eighth through twelfth grade. The first graduating class was the Class of 1962. The first yearbook, Islander, was published in 1962. All of the “Cheese-heads”, as the locals referred to the Americans at Whitney, were transferred to Kindley High School. From then on, when students transferred from other bases, they attended Kindley High School and were no longer schooled off base. The school mascot was the “Falcons”.

For the 1962-63 school year the principal was Cecil Johnston and there was a faculty of twenty-seven. The senior class had twenty-eight students and the total enrollment of about 350 students in grades 8-12. The 1963 yearbook included a picture of the school. By the mid-sixties, there were about forty seniors and the school enrollment for grades 7-12 was around 450 students. Mr. Robin Joplin and Mr. Jack Richardson also served as principal during the sixties. The first school newspaper, Falcon Flashes, was first published during the 1967-68 school year.

School activities throughout the sixties included student council and the National Honor Society. Other extracurricular activities included yearbook, science club, drama, model airplane club, letterman’s club, library club, French club, Spanish club, stamp club, math club, chess club and Red Cross clubs. There were active drama and music programs. The chorus had three levels and there was a school band and an orchestra. Sports for men included basketball, soccer, rugby, track, and softball. The school teams competed against military groups and local Bermuda teams. GAA, drill team and cheerleaders were available to girls. There was a tennis team for boys and girls.

Ken Ganister, a graduate in 1965, wrote on the Kindley High School alumni website that…

Attending Kindley High was not like attending high schools in the states. Being that the school was so small, there was a lot of interaction between the kids in different grade levels. The Soccer Team, the Rugby Team and the other extra curricular activities, had participation at mixed grade levels. There just were not enough students, in the senior, junior, or the freshman class, for that matter, to make up a team; without going to lower grades. There were very few clicks. For the most part everyone got along very well. It was a great school to attend.

In the 1970s Kindley High School’s name was changed to Chaffee High School when the Air Force Base was turned over to the Navy. The school was named in honor of the NASA astronaut, Lt. Commander Roger B. Chafee, US Navy. The commander died while participating in a stimulated manned Apollo mission on July 27, 1967. The school was dedicated in his honor May 12, 1971.

The school administrators in the seventies included Mr. Herbert Bennett who was principal for several years. The school staff varied from a low of twelve teachers to over twenty teachers. The student enrollment was under 200. A highlight of the 1975-76 school year was having a pay phone installed in the front hall of the school. According to the yearbook, this was a major accomplishment by the student council. Gymnastics, basketball and a pep club were added as activities for girls.

During the 1981-82 school year the staff for both the elementary and high schools totaled forty-five with an enrollment of approximately 180 students in the high school. The high school had its own reading teacher, librarian, LD teacher and counselor. The two schools shared a music teacher and nurse. Dr. William Murray became the school principal for the 1982-83 school year. The school sports programs had two teams that played each other and other local and base teams in order to have a full sports schedule. An explorers’ club and a 5-8 band were added to the extracurricular programs. A new gym began construction.

In 1987-88 the schools also shared a compensatory education teacher, a speech therapist and a physical education teacher. K-6 234 7-12 188 pupils. The new high school principal was Dr. Paul Ristow and the school curriculum now included driver’s education and TAG. The school newspaper had now been published for four consecutive years and the school had a Literary Magazine. A major academic project for the year was “A Whale of a Project”. The students constructed a sperm whale and a wind tunnel as part of the project.

The following school year each school had its own librarian, LD teacher, counselor and compensatory education teacher. The schools shared the reading teacher, music teacher, physical education teacher, speech therapist and health aide. This school year $750,000 were spent on school improvements to the exterior and interior of the high school. The school’s façade was enhanced by the installation of new windows and was painted. The interior was painted, new tiles were installed as well as new lockers and a new supply room. Future plans included window shades for the building, a new lighting system, ceiling improvements and an air-conditioned gymnasium, locker room and shop.

Dr. Thomas Smith became principal for the 1988-89 school year. The upgraded school gymnasium was named after Herbert Bennett who had been the high school principal or supervising principal for Bermuda from 1967 to 1980.

In the nineties, the high school enrollment was about 150 students per year. The yearbooks featured a page for each member of the senior class. AP classes were introduced in the 1989-90 year with one section offered. The following year, three AP courses were available to students. Sports events included Invitational Weeks were students from the Atlantic area completed. Students were able to attend school activities in other countries including the Model United Nations trips to Amsterdam, Speech and Drama Festivals in London and the Spanish Clubs trip to Spain. Students were even able to see stars from the TV soap opera, “The Young and Restless” who were filming in Bermuda.

By 1993-94 the two schools were combined into a unit school with an enrollment of 350 students in grades K-12. The staff totaled thirty-three. In addition to the classroom teachers the school had a librarian, a teacher for the learning disabled, counselor and compensatory education teacher/reading improvement specialist, music, physical education and host nation teachers. By the last year of the schools, 1994-95, the combined school had a student population of 150 students.

The school was closed in 1995.

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