History of our Public School System
Greene County, Pennsylvania
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Naturally, our county schools date back to when Greene County was formed in the 1700's, when our children attended one-room school houses with one teacher for all 8 grades/all ages.
Old One-Room Schoolhouses:
"A typical school day opens with the ringing of a hand school bell to summon the children. The teacher then leads the class in the Pledge of Allegiance and the reading of the 23rd Psalm."
Teachers in one-room schools were ofaten former students themselves. These teachers were very special people... during the winter months they would get to the school early to get a fire started in the potbelly stove, so the building would be warm for the students. On many occasions they would prepare a hot, noon meal on top of the stove, usually consisting of soup or stew of some kind. They took care of their students like a new mother hen would care for her newly hatched chicks; always looking out for their health and welfare.
And the typical school day was 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with morning and afternoon recesses of 15 minutes each and an hour period for lunch. The schedule for the day would probably be: 1st and 2nd grades will study arithmetic; 3rd and 4th grades, reading and writing; 5th and 6th grades, geography, including the states and capitals; 7th and 8th grades, American history and health. In the afternoon, the scheduled was usually reversed.
The older students were given the responsibility of bringing in water, carrying in coal or wood for the stove. The younger students would be given responsibilities according to their size and gender such as cleaning the black board (chalkboard), taking the erasers outside for dusting plus other duties that they were capable of doing.
Common punishments for students who attended a one-room school might include: no recess on a given day, or writing your mistake 100 times on the blackboard, or being sent home to retrive the homework you forgot.
Transportation for children who lives too far to walk was often by horseback or provided by house-drawn kid hack or sulky, which could only travel a limited distrance in a resasonable amount of time each morning and evening. In more recent times, students rode bicycles.
Often town meetings and picnics were held in the school house, which was often the center and focus for thousands of rural communities. Many local families were educated in one-room schools. As time evolved, some of the schools had two-rooms with 4 grades in each room; and the buildings had no indoor plumbing, so students had to use the outdoor facilities.
Recess included baseball games and shooting marbles. Students were only allowed to walk a certain number of miles, so the state controlled where the schools would be built. In most cases, property owners donated the land where the schools were built and in turn, a lot of the schools were named after the landowner. Most students walked to school and a few rode horses. If the school houses were no longer needed and were announced for sale, many of the schoolhouses reverted back to the landowner. After moving into an area, coal companies typically built schools, most with four rooms.
Today, West Greene School District includes nine townships and is 256 square miles. At one time, there were 90 schools in the West Greene area and about 100 in the rest of the county. Center Township had 18 one-room schoolhouses; Richhill Township had 18; Morris Township had nine; Aleppo had 10; Graysville had one; and New Freeport had two. (Photo courtesy of Tom Headlee, click photo to enlarge).
Public School System:
In 1916, our public school system was governed by a county Superintendents of Schools and an Assistant Superintendent. In those days, with approximately 6,600 students enrolled in nine boroughs and eighteen townships, most students learned their lessons in one-room school houses. Of the 230 school buildings in the county, 194 or 84%, were one-room structures. There were nine high schools in the county located in the Waynesburg and Mt. Morris Boroughs and in the townships of Aleppo, Center, Cumberland, Jefferson, Monongahela, Morris and Richhill.
Also in 1916, a county-wide course of study was introduced that would aid the teachers in classifying their students on penmanship, by adopting the Palmer Method of Business Writing, and encouraged spelling improvement by instituting a countywide spelling contest/bee.
School attendance was also a difficult problem in the county because the average number of students attending school was only about 87%, in spite of the compulsory attendance law. Most districts were reluctant to employ truant officers, but attendance was greatly improved when a truant officer was on the scene. Also the superintendent of schools believed the system should have fewer schools. Many townships had 10 to 12 schools which in many instances, were attended by a dozen or fewer pupils. But until the county roads were improved, it was difficult to centralize or consolidate schools.
In 1920, better roads enabled some of the one-room country schools to close. In Center Township, seven schools (MT. Hope, Kent, Johnson, Scott, Mitchell, Harvey and Moore) were closed, leaving only 10 schools in that township. Ant the Wade School in Perry Township was closed; and five in Whiteley Township (Baily, Highland, Mooney, Morris and Whiteley Chapel) closed, leaving on ly four in that district.
Excitement was in the air in the summer and fall of 1921 when the Jefferson Township School Board and the Jefferson Boarough School Board took steps to create the first centralized or consolidated school in Greene County. A contract was awarded for a major renovation of the high school building, and in November 1921, the renovated structure was ready to accommodate the high school program in four rooms on the second floor, while grade school students used the four rooms on the first floor. In the consolidation process, the West End and Laurel Run grade schools and the Jefferson Grade Schools were closed, moving those students to the newly renovated school building. At the same period in history, the opening of the Jefferson Public Library was a source of pride for the community.
Eventually, in the mid- to late- 1940's, the one-room school houses were becoming a thing of the past for Greene County students. And in the mid 1960's, Greene County was bussing children to their various school.
County School Districts:
Greene County schools were eventually divided into five (5) public school districts, with a common goal for each of our School Districts to provide a safe environment while encouraging academic excellence and social responsibility in our students so that they may become knowledgeable, productive, and lifelong learners in a rapidly changing society.
Following are the municipalities within the five school districts:
Carmichaels School District Carmichaels Borough and Cumberland Township
Central Greene School District Waynesburg Borough and Franklin, Perry, Washington, Wayne and Whiteley Townships
Jefferson-Morgan School District Jefferson, Clarksville and Rices Landing Boroughs, and Jefferson and Morgan Townships
Southeastern Greene School District Dunkard, Greene and Monongahela Thownship, and Greensboro Borough
West Greene School District Aleppo, Center, Freeport, Gilmore, Gray, Jackson, Morris, Richhill and Springhill Townships
For general information, please contact the Information Services at 724-852-5399 / Toll Free: 1-888-852-5399 Greene County Office Building, 93 E. High Street, Waynesburg, PA 15370