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01 July 2016 - Yes, The One-Room Country School Thrives

As we celebrate Independence Day this weekend, I want to re-visit a topic I discussed on Samuelson Sez a few weeks ago...the one-room eight-grade country school, an institution that I feel played an important role in starting the education process for thousands of people who went on to build and lead this country. You may recall a few weeks ago I wrote about the one-room eight-grade country school I attended in Wisconsin and then wondered if there were many of them in existence today.

I was quickly reminded by many of you who live near Amish communities that the one-room school is very much in evidence. But I was surprised there are still some one-room eight-grade country schools alive and well outside Amish country. Among the several e-mails I received, I selected one to share with you this week that pretty well sums up the story of a school still in operation today.

The letter came from Donald Cotton in Kalkaska, Michigan in the Lower Peninsula, a few miles east of Traverse City. He said - “I am sending you information on our one room school. It is still serving our area. It is near Kalkaska, Michigan, Excelsior District #1 Crawford School. It was formed in 1875, soon after the county and township were organized.

The district was named for an early settler family. There are still descendants of that early family in the district. The present building was built in 1892. Electricity was added when the REA came to the area about 1940. LP gas replaced wood heat in 1951.

Until about the late 1960's, one teacher had all K-8 grades with 20-30 plus students. Beginning at that time 2 or 3 teachers taught more students. A recently retired teacher came to teach here as a young lady and retired 35 years later. She taught the children of some of her former students.

The woodshed had been remodeled as a playroom and was changed to a third classroom. All teachers have degrees, with one having a Master’s degree. The school has several computers and its own bus. It is still operating today."

Thanks to Donald Cotton of Kalkaska, Michigan for sharing that story about a school that educated him and generations of his family. He sent some photos of the school and it reminded me of the school I attended because it had something I failed to remember earlier, a bell tower that the teacher would ring to call us in from recess to resume classes. I feel privileged to have started my education in the O’Connell Grade School in Wisconsin.

After celebrating Independence Day I look forward to attending County and State Fairs and watching the leaders of tomorrow, 4-H and FFA members, exhibit what they have learned in the two best leadership training programs for young people on the planet. Add to that events like FarmFest, Farm Progress Show, old farm equipment shows and community festivals and it is a great time of the year. I look forward to meeting many of you along the summer trail.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.