At last! ‘Class’ is in session at the P.H. School House Museum

Jake Alvey, a second-grader at Pleasant Hill Elementary School, liked his experience as a pupil in a turn-of-the-century school.

He learned a new game – actually an old one called mouse trap – and he liked the reading session with the “school marm,” Joyce Zimmerman, a retired teacher and volunteer with the Pleasant Hill School House Historical Museum located on state Route 213, Steubenville.

That was where Alvey and his peers in Kathy Hannan’s class along with pupils in Nicole Mackey’s second-grade class got their chance to see what it was like to be a student in a one-room schoolhouse back in the late 1800s.

The visit for the second-graders was held May 13. The fourth-graders did likewise two days later, walking to the nearby school believed to be one of the last one-room brick school houses in Jefferson County.

Built in 1880, the school was in use until its closing in 1952 when the present Pleasant Hill Elementary School opened. Now it will close come the end of the 2012-13 school year.

Gloria Renda, president of the board of directors of the Pleasant Hill School House Historical Museum, was all smiles, delighted by the visits to the Island Creek Township school listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1986.

That was, after all, the whole point behind the building’s restoration effort over the past several years by a group of individuals who organized as the museum and became a nonprofit organization in April 2008. Since then, a variety of improvements have been made.

The recent visits were the first of hopefully many more, according to Renda.

“This is what it was all about,” Renda said as she surveyed the day’s activity in the schoolhouse occurring on what was a chilly May day when more spring warmth was anticipated when the plans were initially made.

Among those on hand for the visits, in addition to Renda and Zimmerman, were retired teachers Karen Lundquist, Connie Crawford and Dave Nicholson, all museum board members; and Clarence Virtue, a retired Pleasant Hill Elementary School principal who rang the school bell as the pupils arrived.

“Right when we were starting six years ago, we said let’s go for this goal to bring kids down, to get the kids in here and give them a feel for what it would be like to put in a day in an 1880 school,” Lundquist said.

The half-day sessions gave pupils time for old-fashioned games such as “Ring Around the Rosie,” and lessons in spelling, reading and arithmetic.

“We’re real proud and real happy,” Lundquist said.

“I think it was a good experience for me,” Hannan said. “It was a good time for me because I would like to be back in that time and see how they were able to teach all these kids on different levels,” she said.

“I think the kids are really enjoying it today. They are already saying I don’t know how they sat in these chairs, so I think it’s a wonderful experience for them to see what it was like,” Hannan added.

On its Facebook page, the museum lists as its mission “to rehabilitate the school house and to provide a cultural and educational center for the surrounding communities. Today’s generation and future school children will be able to experience the environment in which their ancestors were taught by means of class visits to the museum.”

In addition to Renda, officers include John Finney, vice president; Richard Clashman, treasurer; Joanie Westover, secretary; Joyce Zimmerman, historian; Kay Finney, Cathy Llewellyn and Argie Kisner, fundraising committee; and Terry Zavacky, Karen Lundquist, Connie Crawford and Dave Nicholson, board members.

The museum welcomes donations that can be made payable to Pleasant Hill School House Museum and mailed to 4355 Steuben Woods, Steubenville, OH, 43952. Annual memberships are available for $5 for a student or alumni; $20 for a family; or $50 for a principal.