Some people only know about one-room schoolhouses from TV shows like "Little House on the Prairie," but an Iowa group that helps to preserve the by-gone educational icons meets this week in Coralville. Bill Sherman is on the executive board of the Iowa Historic Preservation Alliance which is gathering dozens of people from across the state who are devoted to saving the aging structures.
Sherman says many of the "country schools" have already been preserved and the folks have made school-museums of them and need suggestions for making improvements and make more comprehensive programs. He says virtually every one of Iowa’s 99 counties has at least one schoolhouse preserved, and some counties have two or three. In all, he says about 200 one-room schoolhouses have been saved in Iowa, most of which are now museums.
He says: "The one room country school was the backbone for education in Iowa from 1830 until 1945, so it was really the main delivery system of education and they had a tremendous impact on our history and culture. In many places, the country school was the only public building in the township."
Sherman says it’s paramount this bit of Iowa history is preserved — in real life, not just on the back of the state’s commemorative quarter. "I think it’s important that we save these buildings so that children today can learn what it was like to go to school 100 years ago and maybe compare and contrast their current school experience with what children were experiencing years ago," according to Sherman.
Senior citizens, too, can benefit from the old schoolhouses, as Sherman says they may’ve attended school in such a building and would enjoy reliving those old memories. The conference, The Future of Country School Preservation and Programming, is scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Johnson County Historical Society Museum. For more information, call Sherman at 800 434-2039.