Ozarks Life: Lora Hopper leads York Elementary into a new era

The Springfield native helped build York into one of the top schools in the district
Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 8:30 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Kids are hoping for some normalcy this year after a year-and-a-half of challenges.

York Elementary students will have masks, five days in the classroom, but also a new environment.

“We’ve been really excited about coming into this building,” York principal, Dr. Lora Hopper said about the school’s temporary home this year.

The old Sherwood Elementary School is back from the dead, transformed into York Elementary for all of 10-months. Next year, a new state-of-the-art York Elementary building will open.

“To have that level of a building, $21 million worth of a facility for education, put right down in the middle of that community, where the school is the hub,” Hopper said with amazement.

This is Lora’s 40th year in education. When she first came to York seven years ago, it was the lowest performing elementary school in Springfield.

A Central High School grad and Springfield native herself, Lora knew York could do better. She got the teachers together and formed a plan.

“We began to realize that we could dig deeper, and find out what the problems were, and address those problems,” Lora said. “And as we address those problems, the children started to learn more and perform higher.”

Now, York is one of the top performing schools in the district. At its center: getting parents involved with their kids education.

It’s an approach straight from Lora’s personal life. She’s one of eight kids who shared hand-me-downs. But she had a supportive family who made sure Lora could achieve her dream.

“When I had homework,” Lora said, “(my dad) would spend his evenings right beside me helping me and supporting me. And it made a difference. So I just at a very early age, I had that role model that showed me that with some support systems, you can really do a lot more than you think you can.”

It’s about building relationships with parents that Lora and her faculty have been focusing on at York. And it’s been paying off for the hundreds of kids who are now flying high academically and emotionally.

“I felt like that if I could help struggling young people to believe in themselves, and to grow in their ability to do a variety different things, that that would be very rewarding.”

Lora is quick to tell people there’s not a time limit on trying to reach your dreams. She was a non-traditional student, going back to school and graduating from Missouri State in just three years.

By the way, York Elementary just received an award from the state for its behavior intervention program which has lowered the school’s disciplinary issues with students.

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