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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Gridley

Grand View, One-Room School

In 1944 the one-room and town schools of McLean County had not yet been consolidated. People were proud of their local school and prized the accomplishments of the teachers and students. Agnes O'Malley taught at Grandview, the one room school between El Paso and Gridley, Illinois for 22 years (at least!). In 1944 the school had just 14 children enrolled, but this was a thin year for the school. In prior years the enrollment included anywhere from 40 to 20 children, and this school drew from only a one and half mile radius!

All photos from the Pantagraph Negatives Collection, McLean County Museum of History, Bloomington, IL

The story written on November 3, 1944 was featured because a school trustee wanted to show the quality of education that was being delivered at their school, after the Pantagraph had suggested that country schools couldn't match the education offered in the city.

At Grand View school was in session for 8 months of the year, just as it was in the city schools. Classes met from 9 am to 4 pm, with hot lunches served in the school by the teacher (!) and occasionally by helpful mothers. All subjects were taught over a range of 1st through eighth grade, although there were no 6 or 7th grade students in 1944. Miss O'Malley spent roughly one hour each day teaching each grade, and students studied independently while she worked with each grade.

All photos from the Pantagraph Negatives Collection, McLean County Museum of History, Bloomington, IL

The children enjoyed two recesses of just 15 minutes each, although sometimes Miss O'Malley admittedly was generous with an extra five minutes. The school playground was very well appointed with swings and teeter totters, and the children also played football. Students studied current events and were active in war work -- collecting milkweed, scrap metal and paper and buying war stamps. Miss Olive Runge taught music one day a week (below) -- the school had a piano for music classes and the children learned music and folk songs. Students who wanted to continue their education generally went to either Our Lady in Peoria, a Catholic girl's high school, or St. Bede in LaSalle, a Catholic boys school there.

All photos from the Pantagraph Negatives Collection, McLean County Museum of History, Bloomington, IL

Later in November the Gridley Teacher's Activity unit met and heard Mrs. E.M. Adams of Washington, D.C. speak. She was a Grey Lady with the Red Cross at Walter Reed Hospital. The teachers met at the Freed School and had a social hour after two of the teachers presented talks on Central America and the racial problems of India and China. In this way, the teachers kept themselves up to date and maintained important ties to the other professionals in their community after what were very busy days at school! In December the teachers planned a Christmas party for their unit to be held at Grand View School.

Another article in a November issue of the Pantagraph recorded a meeting of rural school officials, the Home Bureau and Farm Bureau to discuss the "problems" of the rural schools. Two problems were declining enrollment and the fact that many teachers were married and had only agreed to teach during the duration of the war. Further, some teachers had been given emergency certificates and were not legally qualified to teach school. Officials foresaw a shortage of teachers after the war. Consolidation was on the minds of the officials as they reviewed the stark differences in school funding available in each school district. Even in 1944 the variations in funds were vast -- from $83,000 in one district to $397,000 in another. These large differences would have be considered when building new schools and planning educational plans. Rural communities wanted to have better schools, but at the same time did not want to give up local control over the school itself, which was a fear if new legislation was written by the state after the large study of Illinois schools was completed.

Miss Agnes O'Malley boarded for years with the Hayes family in Gridley and at the age of 58 she finally married -- to Phillip Evans Hayes, the brother of her landlord.

Search: "One-room schools"

All photos from the Pantagraph Negatives Collection, McLean County Museum of History, Bloomington, IL

A few related clippings:

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