‘Old style’ country school time

Some Stillwater kids go back to school next week.

Short summer? No. The lucky first- through seventh-graders will go to school like their grandparents did – to a one-room country school.

Three boys and 14 girls will dress in costumes of 100 years ago. They’ll arrive by 8:30 a.m., have a flag ceremony then study things like art, nature, crafts, music and hold spelling bees. At recess, they’ll play games of yesteryear. Before they leave at 12:30, they’ll eat a lunch brought from home, which may tax their mothers a bit – refrigerators weren’t around in 1912.

They’ll do all that in one, single room, sitting in rows at old-fashioned desks with a blackboard and a teacher’s desk up front. Kids from one grade will recite while others study, all at the same time.

Their schoolhouse is authentic. McKean School was built for Washington County Rural School District 19, which was organized on June 22, 1861. The original location was "in the eastern part of Lakeland, some two miles northwest of the village and about the same distance south of Stillwater Junction," according to the Aug. 16, 1899, Stillwater Gazette.

Today, McKean School is next to a pine grove on the Boutwells Landing campus. It’s been renovated and re-equipped by Boutwells senior residents with new white paint, a bell tower and an American flag in front.

Its "schoolmarm" is also authentic. Marian Carlson is a long-time Boutwells resident with a long time career as a teacher. Assisting Carlson is her daughter, Joy Carter, an Iowa music teacher; Arlette Egan, a retired Stillwater teacher, and several other Boutwells seniors who will talk about walking or riding a horse to a one-room country school, helping stoke a round, wood-burning stove in the winter, and drinking water from the same dipper in a pail on a stand in the coat room, inside the school’s single entrance.

McKean School will be in session June 18-22. Most of its 17 students, who applied earlier to attend, are from the Stillwater area with others from Woodbury, Lakeland, Cottage Grove, St. Paul, Minnetrista and Wisconsin.

Boutwells also opens McKean School to the public from noon until 2 p.m. on specified Sundays during summer months. No admission fee or reservation is needed. McKean School is one block south of the west entrance on Norwich Parkway.

For more information contact Deb Campbell @ [email protected]