"A good education is the essential foundation of a strong democracy"
For a large part of our republic's history, the one room schoolhouse was the backbone of American Education. Today, the Derry Area School District honors that tradition with the preservation of the Atlantic #40 One Room Schoolhouse.
Country school children were exposed to a broad view of American life. Young people were introduced to important values such as honesty, industry, perseverance, and patriotism through a curriculum based upon U.S. History, reading, spelling, recitation, and arithmetic. But the rural schoolhouse was not just a place for teaching America's children. It was also a community center where neighbor's gathered for dances, pie socials, concerts, lectures, and even worship.
At one time, there were over 40 one room schoolhouse buildings in the area surrounding Derry in Westmoreland County Pennsylvania. Sincere their formal closings, some have been converted into homes or storage buildings. Unfortunately, many have fallen into disrepair or have simply disappeared.
Atlantic #40 Origin
In 1909, the Atlantic Crushed Coal Company gave the Derry Area School District a half acre parcel of land in the village of Atlantic, just north of New Derry,Westmoreland County. A one-room schoolhouse was built with wood siding and a slate roof. School was taught there until the 1957-1958 school year was completed. Since 1958, Atlantic #40 was used as a farm storage building.
Atlantic #40 rehabilitation
In February 1994, a group of community activists from the Derry area formed the Atlantic #40 Rehabilitation Committee. The purpose of this dedicated group was to oversee the bidding process, orchestrate work crews, encourage volunteerism, organize materials, initiate fundraising, and establish a public relations committee.
A professional house mover was contracted to move the Atlantic #40 Schoolhouse 1.5 miles from New Derry to the campus of the Derry Area School District. After excavation of the site and the pouring of the footer, the schoolhouse was moved in October of 1994.
Many volunteer and professional carpenters worked tirelessly to replace the roof, install slate backboards, insulate, paint, repair flooring, install a heating system, and get the Atlantic #40 ready for a grand opening. Students from the Eastern Westmoreland Career & Technology Center completed the foundation and did the electrical and carpentry work. 345 students volunteered to work on the Derry Area One Room Schoolhouse Project. These students did 4,340 hours of work. This averages to 12.7 hours of work per student volunteer.
Fundraising was a necessary part of the One Room Schoolhouse Project. Some of the ideas for fundraising were penny collections, open house displays, t-shirt sales, painted slates, cookbook and notebook sales, bike-a-thons and donations from local residents, businesses, charitable foundations, and grants. In addition to fundraising, many friends donated items such as memorabilia, photographs, desks and even a school bell.
The following is a list of original 1909 materials that are still visible and in use today:
- front/back wainscoting
- 90% of wall studs, floor and ceiling joists
- 80% of roof joists
- 40% of glass in windows is original "wavy" glass
- The original pine floor is being used as a sub floor
- The chalk tray
- the desk in the front corner is an original #40 desk
The second row of desks are original desks from other Derry schoolhouses. The beautiful hanging lights came from the Loyalhanna School. Our bell in the bell tower is the original bell from the #7 Schoolhouse near Keystone State Park. The big bell on the floor inside the #40 Schoolhouse is the original bell from the #8 Schoolhouse near Pandora.
The display inside our schoolhouse honoring Emma Austraw, the #8 teacher who was brutally murdered in 1919, contains news clippings, pictures, portraits, her report card, her purse, the large school bell, and a folk print picture of the #8 Kiser School. This display is our community's touching memorial to this young teacher.
A curriculum goal of the Derry Area School District is to have traditional one room schoolhouse classes taught once a month. Many teachers have volunteered to write lessons, sponsor events, and give today's Derry Area students a chance to relive the experience of attending a one room school! Spelling bees, marbles, sack races, reading hours, writing with ink pens, tours, guest speakers, drawing contests and math lessons on slate are all parts of a day long trip back into history. Seeing students once again enjoying classes at the Atlantic #40 is a special reward after so much work and historical rehabilitation.
Protecting, promoting and utilizing the Atlantic #40 Schoolhouse comprise the ongoing mission of our community.
Lastly, a Special Thanks to all who helped make this project, The Atlantic #40 One Room Schoolhouse a reality.