SYCAMORE – After renewing its lease on the one-room school, the North Grove School Association has plans to increase its effect on area students.
At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Sycamore School District 427 Board approved a five-year lease agreement with the association: for $1 a year, the association will lease and maintain the old one-room North Grove School, which was built in 1878 by the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church and purchased by the DeKalb County public school system in 1880.
Jennifer Parsons, the association president and a teacher at District 427’s North Elementary School, updated the board on the association’s recent accomplishments, including a tripling in the number of student field trips to the school this year over last year.
“In past years, we’ve had two every year, so we’re up to six this year,” Parsons said.
She said the classes that usually come are second- and fifth-grade classes because the schoolhouse fits best in those curricula: Second-graders are learning about local history, while fifth-graders are learning about the Civil War era. Most of the students who visit are from Sycamore schools, Parsons said.
Swedish immigrants to the area first built the school, and lessons once were taught in Swedish there. To preserve that heritage, the school hosts a number of events during the year with connections to Swedish culture and heritage.
The school sits at 26745 Brickville Road in rural Sycamore. After it was acquired by the public school system, it operated as a public school until 1952, according to the historical marker in front of the school.
The North Grove School Association formed in 1985 to help preserve the building.
Parsons said she had gone to a national convention this year in Iowa for associations preserving schoolhouses, and she learned how unique the North Grove School was because of how close it is kept to its original state.
“It’s never been moved. It’s on its original foundation still,” Parsons said. “We’ve preserved it, we haven’t renovated it. ... We want the [floor]boards to look like they’re still walked on, we don’t want them to be glossy because if you talk to members who [were students there], it was never shiny.”
The association also keeps panes of leaded glass so that when windows need to be replaced it’s not with modern glass.
“So many of the one-room schoolhouses that are out there and preserved have been renovated completely,” Parsons said.
District 427 board President Jim Dombeck said the school always has represented, for him, the area’s commitment to education.
“These Swedish immigrants, hardscrabble farmers out there, realized how important education was,” he said.
Parsons said the association plans to have more visits from schools in the future, but also would like to have more students show up on their own time and not as a part of a class field trip. When kids do come out, she said, they appreciate the history they experience.
“The kids are in awe when they go out there and sit in the desks,” she said. “It’s pretty special.”