Monday, September 17, 2012

Back to the same ol' school in Stockton

Stockton's downtown is a step back in time, with plenty of buildings dating back well over a hundred years in age. Many have been repurposed or may have slightly adjusted their use over the years, but overall, quaint is a good way to describe the community's public spaces. I guess we shouldn't have been surprised, then, by the schoolhouse we happened upon as we drove down South Main Street. It's historic.

In fact, it's so historic that it's (stay with me here) the state's oldest continually-operating public school on its original site. The 'oldest' designation gets a little complicated because while the school has been running as an educational entity since 1832, the current building is a replacement for the original one-room schoolhouse. That's not to say that the current building is any spring chicken: it was built in 1873, using materials salvaged from the first one.

Look at the building from the school's parking lot and small playground, and with a smidgen of imagination, you're easily transported into a Norman Rockwell painting. You can just see the school teacher leaning out of the doorway, urging the children back into class. The Stockton Borough School harks back to the days when communities invested in buildings to educate a few dozen children because the next nearest school was just too far away, but according to the school website, it accommodated up to 120 students when it first opened. It's hard to tell, but the building was actually enlarged with another room in 1884 to accommodate further growth in the student population.

With time and progress bringing evolving building codes, many towns would have shut down the building and folded the classes into regional schools years ago. Stockton, however, has done the proper renovations and retrofits to the existing structure to ensure it's up to code and meets accessibility requirements. Today, four classroom teachers educate students from Kindergarten to sixth grade, and the existing building has been partitioned to accommodate teaching space as well as offices and other facilities. And the kids can feel justifiably proud that their school is listed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

A quick note about the 1832 building: it was octagonal, and you have to wonder why. Were the young students of Stockton so unruly that the teacher needed that many corners to make them sit in?


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