History of Idaho, Volume 1, by Hiram T. French, M.S.
The Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago and New York 1914, Page 428-430


The board of trustees of Washoe District No. 23, Canyon county, in the fall of 1912 put into operation a new feature in rural school work known as a community school. This is the first school in the state to put this idea into actual practice. The people of the community became impressed with the need of more practical training for their children of school age in the grades and including first year high school, which was the work embraced under the new plan.

In order to carry out the project, bonds were voted for the purchase of additional grounds adjacent to those already owned by the district and for the erection of a building which would provide living apartments for the teachers and rooms for instruction in domestic science for the girls, and manual training and agriculture for the boys. Three acres of ground were secured and a building constructed with modern appliances, such as steam heat, electric lighting and power, and a water supply under pressure, with a sanitary sewerage system. The building is 43 by 48 feet ground plan, with two stories and ten rooms. There are about sixty feet of screened porch on two sides of the building, a portion of which may be used as a sleeping porch.

On the second floor of the building, with an approach from the outside or front, is an assembly hall which will accommodate 150 people. The first story of the building is constructed of brick; the second, frame, finished with lap siding stained brown, with trimmings. Near this is the brick schoolhouse, of two rooms, for the regular school work. It is the plan to use a portion of the acreage for a baseball diamond and a playground, and the balance for school gardens and lawns. The estimated cost of the land and new building, when finished and equipped as originally contemplated, is $6,000.

The fundamental idea in the scheme is to make the school a social center for the community, as well as a place where secondary school work may be done to the best advantage. The question of making the rural school as attractive to the pupils as the city school is an important one. Too many rural schools are anything but pleasing in their surroundings, inside and out, and as a result the boys and girls lose interest, even before the grades are completed, and either leave school or make the most of unfavorable conditions until the parents can send them away to town, where, at an early age, they are weaned away from home influences. The problem is not to win back to country life those who have strayed away or who are not successful in other vocations, but to retain in the country those who are "to the manor born." The rural school, properly conducted, can be a mighty factor to this end, and this is the problem which the people of Washoe district have set before them to solve in a way which has not heretofore been tried in this state or in the Northwest, so far as is known.

Washoe is a point on the Oregon Short Line Railway and is one and one-half miles from the town of Payette. The community is in the rich fruit section of the Payette valley. This work was inaugurated under the direction of Professor and Mrs. H. T. French, long identified with the educational interests of Idaho, who had given much thought to the principles underlying the community plan for rural schools. During their administration they demonstrated many of the possibilities of the method. In addition to the regular and industrial school work, numerous meetings and social affairs were held in the community house. A number of prominent people of the state addressed the patrons and pupils and splendid musical talent was secured. In these lines the people of the Washoe district enjoyed advantages unexcelled in any of the nearby towns.

This rural community idea has attracted attention and many inquiries concerning it have been received from different parts of the United States. Several causes conspired for the testing of this new educational feature. James H. Brady, while governor of Idaho, appointed a Country Life Commission tomake a study of rural school conditions. Washoe district has the wealth to successfully finance such a plan. Undoubtedly one of the most potent factors was the "Parent-Teacher Circle" in the Washoe community. This organization is the third in size in the state, and through it the parents have been brought into close touch with school interests and with advanced thought along educational lines. J. C. Muerman, of the United States Bureau of Education, after a visit to Washoe, said: "In my judgment they have hit upon the solution of the problem there. There must be more complete cooperation between home and the school, and country life must be made more attractive to children. I was highly pleased with the general atmosphere. I hope to see many more such institutions built up in the West."

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