Wentzville principal sleeps on school roof to support students who love books

All it took was books wrapped around a building for the principal of 670 students to spend the night on a roof.

WENTZVILLE, Mo. — Monday night into Tuesday morning, Prairie View Elementary Principal David Bates didn't go to sleep in his bed, nor his home, or even on a mattress; instead, he marched to the roof of his school and pitched a tent.

The challenge of setting up camp high and away was something worth celebrating, regardless of the chilly weather or the unlikelihood of someone else, somewhere else, doing the same as him. But, he would tell you that the uncommon approach to weeknight sleeping was something he would do again.

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With the assistance of his reading teachers, Principal Bates obliged to take part in a school-wide goal that coincided as both a learning tool and a time to have fun — that, being a reading contest. In it, students aged Kindergarten to sixth grade would place their fully-read books across every inch of the school building, prompting flipped-page galore to fill the halls.

"Each grade level had different guidelines whether pages, chapters, or books to earn a link in the chain," said Principal Bates to 5 On Your Side. "The students loved the idea of me sleeping on the roof and read well over the required amount to wrap the chain around our halls."

Principal Bates said it took the school of 670 students less than one week to connect the chain from one end to the other. Then, with their goal completed, the grand prize had to be presented — Principal Bates' newfound home on the roof of the school.

So, he borrowed a pop-up tent from a teacher, carried up his gear — all within multiple trips, of course — and sat up with the birds for the night. Just a little while into his graveyard shift, Bates took to Facebook to detail his adventures, an instant hit.

"It was surprisingly very peaceful on the roof," Bates said. "The heating [and air conditioning] unit provided good ambient noise. I planned for a sleepless night, and was pleasantly surprised with how much real sleep I got."

Shortly after sunrise Tuesday morning, 5 On Your Side crews met with a chipper Principal Bates atop the Prairie View Elementary, ready to start a new day — and maybe another new challenge.

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Bates, happy with the final result, told us he felt pride in both his students and the work they put forward. Even despite the joking taunts they gave him through the week, he recognized the inspiration it gives his students, adding, "This is definitely something I would do again in the future to motivate students or celebrate their achievements."

Follow Joel Hulsey on Twitter, @joelchulsey