Little Red Schoolhouse Update


Little Red Schoolhouse Operations Committee Meets


March 22, 2018


By Terry Bailey



The Operations Committee for the Little Red Schoolhouse met at City Hall at noon on March 22, 2018. The purpose of the meeting was to review the work completed so far and to plan for work yet to be undertaken.


Members present were Jason Rabe and Andrew Grabon from the City of Beloit, Tom Claussen and Dale Housh representing Mitchell County, and Jerry Boettcher, the major benefactor of the project. No representative from the Unified School District was in attendance. Also in attendance was Katie Schroeder, Beloit city attorney.


Rabe reviewed a list of repairs completed since the renovation project began in late January. These repairs included: removal of old shingles and roof sheeting and replacement with new sheeting and new metal roof, removal of old wood siding, installation of insulation and vapor barrier, removal of old windows and sills, installation of new window sills and weatherproof windows, removal of old soffits and installation of new soffits, framing of corners and windows, installation of new hardboard siding, repair of broken flooring, creating a new handicapped accessible wheelchair ramp, and repair of cracked foundation.


The work complete to this point has been done by employees of the City of Beloit’s Parks and Recreation Department. They have rearranged their schedules to allow this time to devote to the schoolhouse renovation. They are, however, at a point where they need to return to their regular work activities. With the majority of the outside work completed, the Mitchell County workers will undertake sheet rock work on the inside of the building. The ceiling has significant damage due to water leaking in from the old weathered shingles. The old plaster will need removed and the sheet rock installed, taped and painted.


The old potbellied stove was moved to make room for the interior repairs. It, or another type of stove, will need to be put back into place. The rows of student desks were removed to facilitate work on the interior. They will need to be refurbished and returned to their original positions. The small and non-operational window air conditioner was removed. A discussion was held regarding installing digital air conditioning units instead of installing another window unit that detracts from the appearance of the building. The baseboard heating units are still in place and seem to be operational for future use.


Rabe reported he had received a call from Ruth Bell indicating the desire of Bell Memorial to assist with the installation of informational signage at the site of the Little Red Schoolhouse. Determining the actual words for signs and their location will need to be decided. Everyone was appreciative of the offer of Bell Memorials to help with the renovation project.


The tentative date for a dedication ceremony of Memorial Day weekend seems to be a goal that can be reached. The group looked at Saturday afternoon around 3 or 4 o’clock on May 26th was tentatively selected. Invitations to several possible dignitaries to attend the event were considered.


The final topic of consideration was how to operate the Little Red Schoolhouse once the first phase of renovation has been completed. The apparent goal is to make the building as accessible as possible for information and educational purposes. It was noted that leaving the building open for visitors to come and go in an unsupervised fashion is not a good idea.


The model created by Helen Babb during the years following the Bicentennial Celebration was deliberated. Realizing the value of having direct access to the story of a one room school education, Babb and a group of retired teachers, who had taught in one-room rural schoolhouses, established a schedule of volunteers staffing the Little Reds Schoolhouse in the afternoons from April to October. These retired teachers would open the building and be available to greet visitors, give a small lecture on the operation of a one-room schoolhouse, and to answer any questions.


It appears that Mitchell Count is home to a goodly number or retired teachers. Undoubtedly, none of our current retired teacher have one-room schoolhouse teaching experience.


While that is a nice touch it was not necessary for someone to discuss the educational and social activities of rural schools. The group touched briefly about ascertaining the interest of community members in staffing the Little Red Schoolhouse so that could be open on a regular basis.


The Committee decided to revisit this issue at the next meeting. The next meeting will be held in the City Council meeting room in the Municipal Building on Thursday April 26th at noon. Visitors and interested patrons are welcome to attend.

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