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Foltz School houses even more information than last year

Dave Johnson, a volunteer for Jennings Environmental Education Center, right, rings the bell at Foltz School during a docent orientation meeting Sunday, June 9. Eddie Trizzino/Butler Eagle

BRADY TWP — Volunteers restored the Foltz School to be an immersive history exhibit of the one-room schoolhouse experience, but further talks with alumni of the school have led to it become a “living history exhibit.”

The schoolhouse within Jennings Environmental Education Center opened for the first time this season at noon on Sunday, June 9, and volunteers were on hand to give information about 19th- and 20th-century education. The school educated students from their youth to their teen years from the 1880s until its closure in 1963 and was restored by members of the Moraine, McConnells Mill and Jennings Commission over the past few years.

Dave Johnson, a volunteer for Jennings Environmental Education Center, left, speaks to docents in training Sunday, June 9, outside Foltz School. Eddie Trizzino/Butler Eagle

A recent major source of information was Dewey Rearick, who attended the school from 1938 to 1944. Debbie Sale, a volunteer at Jennings who helped restore the schoolhouse, said volunteers rearranged furniture and items in the schoolhouse based on Rearick’s recollection, and he even contributed some of his report cards and other files to the project.

Sky Pfahl, a volunteer at Jennings, said the volunteers who restored the building are happy to get more information, to make the building look as period-accurate as possible. He said the restorers traveled to other one-room schoolhouses to learn about how they were set up, to make the Foltz School even more accurate.

“He just made it come to life,” Pfahl said. “That’s fundamental to preserving the history.”

Sunday was not only Foltz’s first open house of the season, it was also a training day for docents. Volunteer Dave Johnson led a group of new docents on a tour of the building and explained some of its items and history.

He started with some of the new additions: a composting restroom and a coal shed, which was placed in the same spot where a coal shed was when the school was active.

Sale said people also have donated books, toys and other supplies used in the 1900s to Foltz School, some of which are now on display.

Don Dittman, 72, said he plans to volunteer as a docent at the schoolhouse this summer and wanted to get involved in part because he used to attend a three-room schoolhouse.

“I like learning things, and I like meeting people — this is just so exciting that you get to do both,” Dittman said. “This kind of reminisces to me a little bit, too. There used to be a bell we rang, you had to be a sixth-grader to ring the bell.

“There’s a lot of things I can kind of relate to.”

Pfahl said about 40 people attended each open house at the school last summer, and Sale said the schoolhouse has maintained that momentum, with a handful of people visiting the school Sunday. Sale said she hopes young children visit the schoolhouse in the summer, because they are the demographic that would have been attending the school when it was active.

Debbie Sale, a volunteer for Jennings Environmental Education Center, shows an antique cistern housed in Foltz School during a tour Sunday. Eddie Trizzino/Butler Eagle

“To me it’s important that people, especially children nowadays, see what it was like in that time frame,” Sale said.

Pfahl said the research done by volunteers has been invaluable to making the schoolhouse a history exhibit where people can learn what life was like. He said the more information that can be passed down and maintained, the better.

“We can pull out interviews that talk about some of the games that went on at the time that kids played — that they played,” Pfahl said. “It’s a living history that the concept was to try to maintain that living history.”

Foltz School will be open from noon to 5 p.m. the second Sunday of each month through October, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 27 during Jennings’ Celebrate the Bloom event.

For information on volunteering at the school house, call Jennings at 724-794-6011.

Each open house day planned for Foltz School will have a different theme, with June's being toys used by children in the 1800s and 1900s when the school was open. Eddie Trizzino/Butler Eagle
Foltz School opened for the first time this season Sunday, June 9. Eddie Trizzino/Butler Eagle

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