EKU Re-Dedicates Granny Richardson Springs One-Room Schoolhouse
Donald Sparks, shown here inside the renovated Granny Richardson Springs One-Room Schoolhouse at EKU, started attending the School in Estill County in 1933. Heirs of the late Eli Sparks donated the schoolhouse to Eastern Kentucky University. Sparks was one of many Estill Countians to attend the Nov. 18 re-dedication ceremony.
School bells were sounded. The ?Pledge of Allegiance? was recited. And all those in attendance sang ?School Days? and ?My Old Kentucky Home.?
For many of the 200 or so packed into an adjacent tent, it was like taking a step back in time. But the re-dedication of the Granny Richardson Springs One-Room Schoolhouse on campus Tuesday, Nov. 18, was also a major step forward for all those who wish to preserve an important slice of rural Kentucky history.
The facility, located on Kit Carson Drive across from the Perkins Building, has undergone an extensive facelift that includes new weather boarding, painting, new windows, interior and exterior lighting, landscaping, new concrete walks and signage. It is again available for school and group tours by calling the College of Education, 622-1175.
More than half of the ceremony attendees came from Estill County, the original home of the school before it was moved to EKU in 1976. President Whitlock, who alluded to some family roots in Estill County, talked about the quality of education one could receive in a one-room school.
?I know many people who attended one-room schools and I saw nothing wanting in their education,? Whitlock said. ?If there?s a place in America to lift up the one-room school, it?s EKU because it was such a part of the educational landscape of eastern Kentucky for many, many years.?
Also among the speakers was Robert Grise, retired EKU professor and local historian who served as ?curator? for the schoolhouse for 19 years and led many tours of the facility, often bringing his own firewood and kerosene lantern for a touch of authenticity. He stressed that more historically appropriate items are always needed, especially old school books, and then presented President Whitlock with several 19th century McGuffey Readers from former College of Education Dean Dixon Barr.
Anyone interested in making tax-deductible donations of either cash or artifacts for the Schoolhouse should contact Kim Naugle, Associate Dean of the College of Education, at 622-1175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The West Irvine Elementary School Choir performed ?God Bless America.?
In 2003, EKU?s College of Education launched an effort to raise funds to renovate the schoolhouse. A $35,000 grant from the EKU Foundation augmented approximately $12,000 in money raised through a benefit event starring Carl Hurley and the late Homer Ledford and from individual contributions.
The Granny Richardson Springs School opened in Estill County in 1900, six years before Eastern Kentucky State Normal School was established, and closed in 1964. Thirty-one students were enrolled in the school?s first year. That number grew steadily, especially after oil was discovered in the area, but declined again during and after World War II. By 1963, only six pupils attended.
It was donated to EKU by the heirs of the late Eli Sparks. The Lee County Board of Education donated furnishings.
Long-range plans for the schoolhouse call for the establishment of a one-room school museum that would display educational artifacts and documents representing the growth of public school education in the Commonwealth.
?The vision for the schoolhouse project was to connect the present-day campus with the rich history of the structure as well as to the history of public education in Kentucky,? said Tom Bonny, retired superintendent of Estill County Schools and now assistant director of the South East/South Central Educational Cooperative, who has played a leading role in the restoration of the schoolhouse. ?The realization of this vision will now create an extraordinary opportunity for the public and students of all ages to experience the environs and learn of life in a one-room school, the standard for early education in Kentucky. The development of the museum will extend the vision beyond the walls of the schoolhouse through the creation of exhibits and an archive supported by research into Kentucky?s rich heritage in public education.?