By Connie Williams
As people in our Paynesville community are planning summer vacations or just relaxing enjoying the summer weather, our schools sometimes get ignored or even forgotten.
I haven't worked at the historical museum long, but I find the history of our community quite interesting. One topic in particular caught my attention and that is the history of our schools. I just graduated from high school and the history of how the school started strikes my attention.
The first school in Paynesville was a log cabin, which was built in 1859. In that first school, there were only benches to sit on and a few benches to write upon. The only subject the children studied were a few copies of the Bible and primers.
Several years later, a four-room school was built. It was to accommodate a large enrollment. There were 80 to 100 pupils in the school taught by four teachers. The ratio of students to teachers then is the same as today. But, the students were all different ages, which can understandably make it more difficult.
Within 11 years, this school house had been moved, had a wooden annex and brick added to its exterior, and suffered a fire. Because of its expansion, plans were made to build a larger school. The district bought three blocks of land and the building was erected on the present site of the elementary school. The building was completed on Oct. 12, 1922 at a cost of $35,000. There was another addition added in 1934 as the enrollment expanded to 225 pupils.
Later, an auditorium was built. It was a clear span of 72 feet. It was used for drama acts, concerts, etc. In 1956, an eight classroom and kindergarten structure along with the auditorium were built. Its capacity was 296 students from kindergarten to sixth grade. Construction started in August 1955, and was completed in October 1956. It was a dual purpose activity room, lunchroom, storage rooms, principal's office, teacher's lounge, and renovation of the library. The cost of the new addition was $328,000.
In 1969, a new senior high school was built on the west edge of Paynesville along Highway 23. It is well equipped and has a large gymnasium and a dining hall, known to the students as the lunchroom. Many town and social functions are held in the gymnasium.
The Paynesville schools have always expanded and are still expanding. During the 1957-58 school year, the enrollment rose to 312 in the elementary school and 429 in the high school.
The three-story structure at the elementary and middle school was torn down in 1992 and the elementary school was remodeled. The new middle school was built in 1992.
It is the most recent addition to the Paynesville school system. It connects to the high school, which is a great combination.
If you haven't noticed in the last few weeks, the Paynesville Area High School is getting a new and improved look. With the new tennis courts well under way, the new auditorium and fitness center has been started. The school is still expanding and becoming a better place for education. If you haven't seen it, drive by and realize the time and effort people put into our school system to make it what it is today.