Museum Musings: School Days

By: Gini Woodward


The mornings are cooler and the geese are practicing flying up and down above the Kootenai River morning and night, sure signs that fall is imminent and it is back to school time. High school students will attend the new school built in 2005, while middle school students fill the halls of the “old high school,” which was built in 1970 replacing the older “old high school.” A story written by Keith Coble for the History of Boundary County in 1986 provides a snapshot of the development of the public schools in Boundary County until the publication of the history book.

“In 1947, the citizens of Boundary County voted to consolidate the various school districts throughout the county into one county-wide district. Boundary County School District #101 thus was created. “Prior to 1947, numerous small schools were in existence, some for only a short period of time. A school would be established in an area as a need arose. As the population pattern changed, the school would be abandoned.

“Geographically, schools extended from McArthur and Highland Flats in the south to the Continental Mine and the Flume Camp School on Boundary Creek in the northwest and the Curley Creek and Boulder Creek schools on the east. At least thirty-two small county schools can be accounted for plus the Northside and the Southside schools in Bonners Ferry, which were separate school districts.

“For the most part, these were one- and two-room schools, housing all eight grades. In addition to teaching all subjects and all grade levels, the teacher usually performed the janitorial services. Normally a cottage, or a teacherage as it was called, was provided as living quarters for the teacher.

“The schools were the focal point for the area they served. Social events were often held in the school building and a school program was an event greatly anticipated by the community.

“The numerous schools were necessary because transportation was slow and at times difficult. Most families furnished their own transportation.

Walking to and from school was the common thing. Riding horseback or by wagon was necessary for those living farther from the school. Students who lived south of Bonners Ferry on the bench were transported to the school in Bonners Ferry by a school wagon during the 1920-21 and 1921-22 school years. The wagon was owned by the school and was enclosed, with seats along both sides for the children.

“With the exception of the Southside School (District 4) all eighth graders were required to pass an examination prepared by the State of Idaho Department of Education before being graduated from the eighth grade. These examinations were administered each spring under the direction of the County Superintendent of Schools. The State Tests, as they were called, covered all the basic subjects and were revised each year.

“The only high school in the county was located in Bonners Ferry. Since the Compulsory Attendance Law at the time required attendance only through eighth grade or age eighteen, high school attendance was a personal choice. Lacking rapid transportation, it was difficult for those living in the country to attend high school. Country students would “room and board” with a family in town, going home on week-ends and holidays. Each small county school district paid tuition for the students from that district who attended high school.

“With consolidation came many changes. The small, one- and two-room school disappeared and the present Valley View and Mount Hall Elementary Schools were constructed. The Naples, Northside, and Southside Elementary buildings continued to be used. Although the Southside building was abandoned in 1975, Northside and Naples are still in use. Evergreen School was constructed for those elementary students living east of the Moyie Canyon to eliminate transporting children over the narrow, dangerous road that existed at the time. In 1970, the present high school was built.

“In a relatively short period of time, schools in Boundary County evolved from small, isolated rural schools to a complex modern school system.”

At this writing in 2009, Northside School is a Bed and Breakfast open to the public displaying treasured memories of its past life as a Boundary County school. More photos and school memories may be seen at the Boundary County Museum 7229 Main. The museum is open from Thursday through Saturday, 10am to 3pm.

Museum Musings – Written by Museum staff for publication – Sep 5, 2009
Boundary County Schools ~ Some History
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