Pleasant Valley School
Can you imagine going to school in a one-room schoolhouse? If you want to get an idea of just how far public education has come in 130 years, check out the Pleasant Valley School, a one-room schoolhouse built all the way back in 1890.
Once upon a time and through the middle of the previous century, one-room schoolhouses were common throughout rural Kansas. The distances were too far — and the children too few — to justify larger facilities. Boys and girls of all ages gathered here to learn basic reading, writing, and arithmetic under the tutelage of a single teacher.
Eventually, these rural schools disappeared as people migrated to cities, cars gave people a greater travel range, and education became centralized. Now, these schools are just a memory of the rural frontier past.
The Pleasant Valley school was built in 1890, and was originally located in Haskell County, on the east side of Highway 83. Due to some land title issues, the school was relocated to its current location, immediately to the west of Finney County Historical Museum.
- Hours: 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm
- Summer – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
- Admission is free (Donations Accepted)
The School Today
While most of these one-room schools have been lost to progress and time, Finney County is fortunate to host one of the finest examples of a Kansas one-room school in existence. Every effort has been made to keep and maintain the original structure. Currently, about 80% of the building is still original.
Recently, the school has received some much-needed upgrades and restorations thanks to a Finney County grant and some donated materials and labor from Spanier Construction, a local contracting company. They have restored just about everything at the site — including the outhouses!
Let’s Take a Tour
As you approach the quaint white structure, the first thing you may perceive is what’s “missing.” No mechanical hum from heating or air conditioning units, no chattering flat-screen televisions, and no playground equipment. You will just see a simple building, quietly surrounded by green grass and blue sky. This is what kids would have seen as they ran to school.
Behind the school, you will notice two original outhouses as well as a shelter for animals the students may have ridden to school on (e.g. a donkey).
As with the exterior, the first thing you may notice inside is what’s missing. No computers, no whiteboards, no iPads, no cell phones. Instead, the school is set up just as it was at the turn of the last century, so stepping inside is like stepping back in time.
You will see wooden desks, chalkboards, bookshelves, a school bell, a teacher’s organ, a stove, and everything else you might find in a school of that time period. They even have some books from the original building as well as a teacher’s desk made by the family of a former teacher of the school.
It’s important to note that the stove is just there for show. No insurance company in the world is going to allow a single flame near a wooden, highly flammable historical relic.
The only modern intrusion you will notice is some electrical lines that feed ceiling fans and lights. But that’s it. Try to imagine you or your kids or grand kids going to school in a place like this!
Overall, the experience is tranquil and calming as we are reminded of how simple our lives used to be. Any time you feel the stress of modern life, just go on over to the Pleasant Valley School to relax, decompress, and be transported into the past — even if just for a moment.
Visiting the School
The Pleasant Valley School offers Kansans and visitors alike a great opportunity to learn about the past and to understand what life was like out on the American frontier. Visitors of all ages are welcome.
To tour the schoolhouse, please make arrangements with the education coordinator, Johnetta Herblee. But don’t expect any boring lectures. Mrs. H (as she is known) goes out of her way to make the past exciting and fun for guests of all ages. She has an entire collection of period props, relics, and gadgets so you can have a real hands-on historical experience.
If you are interested in visiting the school and taking a step back in time, you can contact museum staff on Facebook or Mrs. Herblee by phone at (620) 272-3664. Please note the school is unavailable for tours from October to April due to cold weather.