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Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2016

Receiving an education at Black School

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

As I related to you in the past I attended a one-room school for eight years to obtain my elementary education. As I told my children when they were young and I tell my grandchildren now, I was in the same classroom for eight years -- which makes them look at me in a strange way.

There are many memories of that school that I still have. I cannot draw pictures of it, nor can I adequately describe it. I do not know if I was deprived of an adequate education compared to what the town kids received, or if I had learning opportunities that they did not have.

Many others of my generation had the same type of experiences -- attending a one-room school. Black School was torn down in the '50s following school consolidation. Many times I have wished that the school was still standing. Still, that would not have been practical. It was an old building when I was in school.

I can remember the swing sets we had, which certainly would not have met the safety standards that exist today. I can remember the play ground behind the school building and how it was laid out. We had two out buildings in the back, one for the boys and one for the girls at the back of the school yard. There was a coal shed with a corncob shed that had originally been built for one boy to use for his Shetland pony.

One teacher taught approximately 25 children, with the different grade levels, plus supervised recess and lunch hour. The teacher did not have any periods that they could use for breaks. Some of the kids when they got to the fifth grade took instruction for the sixth grade with those in the sixth grade. The following year they took the instruction for fifth grade with the class behind them which was then fifth graders. The following year they took instruction for the eight grade and then the seventh. I was lucky and was in the year that I could go through each grade directly, without skipping around.

There were certain desks for each grade level. We also had single-wide desks and double-wide. We also had different type of desks. When I was in the lower grades, I looked with envy at the desks the older kids had. I got one of them that I wanted when I got in the seventh and eighth grades. As I remember, it was a back desk, due to my height.

Pictures of Black School are hard to come by. Schoolmates have searched for a picture. At one time one of my aunts taught at Black School. A few months ago, I was looking at her scrapbook and found a picture of the school that she had taken before I was in school. I was impressed and feel like I have a treasure. I showed it to my grandson. He was not impressed at all; he thought it was a funny looking school.

When I go to the McGennis Youth Center, I enjoy seeing the school that was moved there from Bates County. While each school is different, there are also similarities, my thoughts go to the memories of Black School anytime I see a one-room school.

There are other things that I could say about my experiences at Black School and perhaps I should, as well as others that attended a one-room school during that era. To me that was a way of life that does not exist any more. Little have I realized that it was a part of educating youth in rural areas.

Why I am bringing this up and being reminded of this is the result of hearing a program, "A History of Rural School of Greene County, Mo." at a meeting for extension retirees by David L. Burton, civic communication specialist, Southwest region. When I heard what the program was, I looked forward to the presentation, which was of special interest to me.

I do not know if anyone has a record of all of the schools in Bates or Vernon County. I also do not know how many of the schools are still standing. I know of a few that still stand. David used a slide presentation to show in detail the qualities that helped country schools even with funding limitations.

On the University of Missouri-Green County Web site there is information about the rural schools project. Included are two videos about the schools. Pertaining to the project, this statement is made, "The Rural Schools Project is a community development project in Greene County that works with individuals and groups to research the 140 rural schools that once operated in this county and then works to educate the public about the historic and community importance of these buildings."

There are some of the 45 school buildings that are still standing that have been placed on the National Historical Register. During David's presentation he had many interesting statements about the schools. I thought there were over 20 students for one teacher, he told about one school that had 80 students for one teacher. The way that it was handled is something that many modern schools are using and that is mentoring.

A book is available and it is also available as a CD which contains a brief history of every rural school in Green County, information on the African-America schools in the county, general history on education in rural Green County, photo pages of rural schools in their present condition, a driving tour map so you can visit the remaining schools yourself.

What is being done in Green County is a demonstration of what can be done to preserve the history of education in rural areas. For additional information regarding "A History of the Rural Schools of Greene County" go to the Web site http://extension.missouri.edu/greene. You can also call (417) 862-9284.

Leonard Ernsbarger
Leonard At Large