PHOTO ADDED - The old building of Le Grand Public School pictured sometime after its completion in 1871.
Editor's note: This is part one of the Times-Republican Education Corner series about some of the area's rural schools. The series will be devoted to the history and formation of schools, as well as the challenges they face in modern times.
It has been more than a century since the first white settlers arrived in present-day Marshall County. When they arrived, they were busy laying the most important foundations of modern cities: roads, houses, shops, churches and schools.
Since then, much has changed in education in the state. Three rural school districts in the county - West Marshall, East Marshall, and Green Mountain-Garwin - have unique histories. History also shows some common patterns across the different districts.
Past actions, contemporary influences
The districts of West Marshall, East Marshall and Green Mountain-Garwin each have their own history of origin. While unique in its own way, there are also clear patterns that emerge when it comes to timing small schools together.
PHOTO ADDED - People and horse-drawn carriages pose outside St. Anthony Consolidated School, which opened in 1913 and closed in 1957. The building has since been destroyed.
As the accounts in The Continuing History of Marshall County Iowa, 1997 suggest, residents of some communities who had lost students or entire school buildings to consolidation resisted amalgamation into larger districts.
“People from small towns like us… thought consolidation probably wouldn't be good for us because we would lose our school,” says Julie Lang, a 34-year-old teacher at Marshalltown Schools and a current substitute teacher at Groene Berg-Garwin . "As with anything, there are pros and cons."
Lang said he grew up in Van Cleve, east of Melbourne. This small town was eventually added to the Marshalltown School District and the local building closed.
Lang said Van Cleve, like some communities in the West Marshall, East Marshall and GMG school districts, is not meeting the education and infrastructure needs the state requires for student success.
She said the first wave of consolidation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries came from rural schools merging. He said that in the 1940s and beyond, consolidation caused schools in smaller towns to outperform schools in larger towns such as State Center, Le Grand and, in his case, Marshalltown.
Gary Krob of the Iowa State Library State Data Center said the state's population experienced steady growth during these periods.
"In general, Iowa's population has always had slow and steady population growth," he said, noting that this was before the agricultural crisis of the 1980s.
He said international immigration from places like Germany and Ireland was key to population growth in the early and mid-20th century, as it is today. The arrival of the baby boomers also contributed to the state's population growth.
Krob said it can sometimes be difficult to look at historical population data because data collection methods used to be different than they are today.
Today, the black and gold West Marshall Community School District includes the State Center, where all of its educational buildings are located, as well as Melbourne, Rhodes, St. Anthony, Clemons, and LaMoille.
According to Continuing History, the modern district was born in 1962 after elections that attempted to consolidate several independent territorial districts into West Marshall.
The first small schools appeared in the district in the 1860s in Rhodes and State Center. LaMoille followed in 1870. Then, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the first wave of school consolidation began.
Rhodes Consolidated Schools was founded in 1883 by bringing together students from different schools in the area. The same happened at the State Center in 1909 and in LaMoille and Melbourne around 1914-1915, according to Continuing History.
This has been the case in western Marshall County for decades. A new wave of consolidation occurred in the post-war period. Minerva Consolidated School merged with State Center in 1945, and LaMoille followed in 1955. Rhodes and State Center merged in 1961, just prior to the final formation of West Marshall in 1962.
The creation of the current district did not immediately mean the end of local school buildings in other cities. As the years passed and new educational facilities were added to the State Center, other cities began to lose their school buildings.
The final blow came in 1979 with the closure of the Clemons School building and in 1983 with the closure of the Melbourne School.
According to Continuing History, some citizens of the smaller towns surrounding the State Center were unhappy with the consolidation.
"The residents of Rhodes strongly opposed the closure of the (local school) because they expected a negative impact on the town, but it did not work out," it says.
On the other side of the county, the purple and gold East Marshall Mustangs came much later. This district currently serves the communities of Le Grand, Gilman, Laurel, Quarry, Dillon, Dunbar, and Ferguson.
According to "Continuing History", East Marshall was founded in 1992. Before that there were several waves of consolidation.
The first school in Le Grand was built in the mid-1850s. In 1871 it became clear that students needed more space, so a two-story brick school building was built in the northeast of the town.
The three-story building was built in 1916 to house more students, but burned down sometime in the next seven years. The replacement building was built and opened in 1924 and still serves as part of East Marshall High School.
As with West Marshall, some communities have lost schools due to consolidation. The Dillon School closed in 1955 and the nearby Rock Valley School existed from 1862 to 1954.
Ferguson initially had a two-class school before consolidating with nearby schools in 1915. Ferguson's last class was in 1960, and then there was a school for third and fourth graders in Le Grand-Dunbar-Ferguson. (LDF) school district and later East Marshall. Ferguson's school was also closed in 2010.
Between 1922 and 1958 there was a consolidated school in Dunbar. The building continued to serve fourth through sixth grade students in the LDF District for some time before closing.
The cities of Laurel and Gilman continue to serve East Marshall Elementary and High School students, respectively. Laurel saw a new brick school built in 1920 and a new high school built in 1951.
A change occurred for Laurel in 1963 when it was merged with Gilman School and part of Jasper County's Mariposa Township to form the South East Marshall County District (SEMCO). This district was affiliated with the LDF for many years until the creation of East Marshall in 1992.
The first schoolhouse in Gilman survived from the 1870s to 1908, when it was destroyed by fire. The building was replaced the following year and has since been renovated. This is the current building of East Marshall High School.
The GMG school district covers Eastern Marshall County and Western Tama County. Green Mountain, this small community northeast of Marshalltown, experienced many of the same pressures as other Marshall County towns in the 19th and 20th centuries.
According to Continuing History, prior to 1921, students in the Green Mountain area attended a one-room school just north of the school's current location.
In September of that year, voters voted to create the Green Mountain Independent School District. This decision followed two previous failed attempts to create a district.
In 1952, a major decision was made that allowed for the construction of a building for fourth through sixth grade students and a superintendent's office for $120,000.
According to Continuing History, the situation at the small-town school remained fairly stable over the following decades. Then, in 1992, the current Green Mountain-Garwin neighborhood was formed when schools in the two communities were merged "after much discussion."
Today, Green Mountain is home to the district's elementary through sixth grade students, while Garwin is home to middle school and high school.
From one- and two-story schools on the plains in the early 1900s to multi-story school campuses today, Marshall County's rural schools have changed over time.
- PHOTO ADDED: The old building of Le Grand Public School pictured some time after its completion in 1871.
- PHOTO ADDED: People and horse-drawn carts pose outside St. Anthony Consolidated School, which opened in 1913 and closed in 1957. The building has since fallen into disrepair.
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|Bois Blanc Pines School District|
|Bois Blanc Township , Mackinac County, Michigan|
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|Rank||Oldest Public High Schools In The U.S.A.||Year Established|
|1||Boston Latin, Boston, Massachusetts||1635|
|2||Hartford Public HS, Hartford, Connecticut||1638|
|3||Cambridge Rindge and Latin, Cambridge, Massachusetts||1648|
|4||Hopkins Academy, Hadley, Massachusetts||1664|
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A more relaxed pace of life
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|Type||Private, two year|
|Total staff||30 (approximate)|
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- Insufficient or lack of health insurance coverage.
- Geographic isolation.
- Lack of public transportation.
- Poor infrastructure.
- Low educational attainment.
- Physical distance of students to school.
- Difficulty finding teachers interested in relocating.
- Poor internet connection.
- Educators required to be entrepreneurial.
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Lack of Public Transportation: Small towns have limited access to public transportation. Some rural communities may not have any transit options whatsoever. Further, since rural areas tend to be spread out, they aren't very friendly to bicycles or pedestrians.What are 2 disadvantages of living in a rural area? ›
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