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Step back in time and visit a one-room school

If you’re interested in Manitoba’s history, and enjoy short daytrips around our province, a visit to a couple of one-room schools might make for an interesting fall tour, through one of Manitoba’s scenic regions. Over the last couple of years, my husband and I have visited two such schools in the Parkland region south of Riding Mountain National Park.

This fall we enjoyed a visit to Marconi School, a nicely restored school north of Oakburn, in the RM of Rossburn. It’s a rare example of an intact school site, with schoolyard, flagpole and an outhouse. Built in 1922, it is a designated municipal heritage site, Site #43. It was named for Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian inventor of the radio — a rather surprising name choice in a primarily Ukrainian district.

Marconi School, #2085, originally cost $3,201 to build. It opened with 69 pupils (and closed after 1958 with 11 students, at the time when many schools were consolidating). As a former teacher, I find the idea of dealing with 69 pupils mind boggling! Even more so is the fact that about three miles away we discovered a cairn for another school, Ruska Rawa School, #1260, built in 1904 and in operation during the same period. Considering the small number of children from farms today, it’s amazing to think that a school could have 69 pupils from surrounding farms with another one such a short distance away.

Inside Marconi School, a framed write-up lists all the pupils, most of whom appear to be of Ukrainian background. The first teacher was Mr. Stephan H. Bellinsky, with a monthly salary of $100.

The double desks attached to the floor, and each with an inkwell, are a feature that might particularly interest young visitors, as will the cloakroom and the tiny library — stocked with old textbooks and reference books — some of which we recognized from our own country-school days. Another interesting feature is the teacherage attached to the back of the school. It is actually fairly roomy, adequate for a single teacher. The surrounding schoolyard is large and neatly maintained.

Directions in miles are: To reach Marconi School from Rossburn, drive about three miles north on PR 264 and then 10 miles east on PR 577. Watch for a sign to turn left, at Road 134W, and drive north about one mile on a single-lane road. Or, from Oakburn: follow PR 277 north about 11 miles and then, still on 577, go two miles west, turning right (north) at Road 134W.

A second restored school in the south Parkland area is the one-room school at Horod, a village established in 1899 by people from the West Ukraine. This schoolhouse, #1364, is also a heritage site, as well as a museum. Located in the RM of Park, it was built in 1909, somewhat earlier than the Marconi School, but closed about the same time, in 1960, after consolidation with Elphinstone School. Over the years, 325 pupils and 36 teachers attended Horod School.

By 1978, the former school was being used for casual storage but in 1989 it was designated a municipal historic site (#34) and repairs were made both inside and out.

Four rows of students’ desks are set up in the Horod School — but not the double kind like Marconi’s. The teacher’s desk at the front holds schoolbooks and lessons plans, while a large stove dominates the centre of the room — complete with a tea kettle ready to boil water. In the surrounding school ground is the original teacherage, shaded by a tall spruce, as well as privies. A commemorative stone cairn stands nearby.

To reach the village of Horod, drive north from Elphinstone, on PR 354, about nine miles; or if you’ve visited Marconi School first, from there drive back east and south on PR 577 until you reach Road 114N. Then drive three miles east, two miles south and then about eight miles east.

For driving through Manitoba’s rural areas, I suggest using Backroad Mapbook (Manitoba version.) We find our copy invaluable for this. All the mile roads are shown, as well as lakes, rivers and creeks.

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