Are there any one-room schoolhouses in Berkshire County?
Photo by Scott Barrow
One-room schoolhouses—with a single teacher for six or more grades—often evoke nostalgia in Americans. Berkshire County was once dotted with some 200 of these schools, but they were all closed by the late-20th century.
The town of Lenox illustrates the typical progression of public school organization in the Berkshires. Historian David Wood writes that Lenox hired its first teachers in 1770 and opened nine district schools. Those schools provided
basic learning for about 150 years, but with improved transportation after 1920, the town closed most one-room schoolhouses and “consolidated” into larger buildings. The Lenox Academy started as a private school in 1803 and morphed into an early public high school, but few students continued their formal education beyond 8th grade until the 1930s. In the latter half of the 20th century, many towns “regionalized” schools, but Lenox remained a single K-12 district.
Our one-room schools are gone, but some rural towns have tiny elementary schools that likely possess some of the valued qualities of their ancestors. Hancock has 42 students in eight grades, Savoy 60 in seven grades, and Florida has 80 in 10 grades. All small-learning communities, they hearken back to the days of the one-room schoolhouse.
Monterey and Egremont continue to maintain small buildings and to petition the regional school district for some sort of limited programming. Of the 196,000 one-room schoolhouses that served America in 1917, only a few hundred remain, mostly in rural areas of the West.