12 June 2016 - Are There Any Still Open and Operating

So what am I talking about when I ask the question - How many of these are still open and operating? If you didn’t guess, I am talking about the ‘one room eight-grade country school’, the kind of school that I attended in ancient times as a boy on the dairy farm in western Wisconsin. It was the O’Connell Grade School, a mile from our farm home, 5 miles from town. We walked, no car pools or buses.

This week’s question was prompted by an e-mail from a listener who asked me to announce on my WGN Radio program in Chicago that an open house would be held later this month at a historic one-room school house in Sycamore, Illinois, 60 miles west of downtown Chicago. After mentioning that on the air, I received an old- fashioned, hand-written letter in the mail from another listener who told me about a one-room country school, also west of Chicago that actually had students until 1991.

That got me to wondering, outside of Amish communities, how many are still operating today, and that’s where I will need your help. I will share my e-mail address at the end of this column.

This is what life was like at the school I attended. It was one building with one room plus a small entry way where we hung coats in the winter. Speaking of winter, there was a large wood-burning furnace in the back of the room and the teacher would arrive an hour early to start the fire and get the building warm enough for us when we arrived. There were no computers, just blackboards on the wall and colored chalk, and one book case with dictionaries and encyclopedias to provide us with additional information beyond our textbooks.

During my years we averaged 40 students per year. One teacher taught Grades 1 through 8 (imagine the screams from teacher’s unions today); subjects taught were reading, writing, arithmetic, history, geography, spelling; there were two brief recesses, mid-morning and mid-afternoon and a 30-minute break at Noon. Our noon meal wasn’t provided by the government, it came from a Roy Rogers lunch bucket packed by Mom. We didn’t check our cell phones or play computer games; we went outdoors and played softball in warm weather and had snowball fights in the winter or climbed trees in the woods. Does that tell us why kids have an obesity problem today? It’s not the food as much as it is the lack of exercise activity.

Oh, and behind the schoolhouse, we did have two wooden outhouses, one for boys, one for girls; and we didn’t go to court to decide who could use which one. If both were busy, there was a forest close to the school, enough said.

I know I got an education that prepared me very well for life. it taught me common sense, to accept responsibility for my actions, a solid work ethic and respect for other people and their views. Now here’s where I need your help. Outside of Amish communities, if you know of a one-room country school that is still open and operating, my email address is bigosam@aol.com. I’d like to hear from you.

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