And Then There Were Six…

Easton HSE 1920 Town School expenses

Six was the number of school districts left in Easton by the spring of 1920. As some of the outlying farms were shrinking in size due to poor soil conditions, with farmers moving into cities such as Bridgeport where work was plentiful, and property acquisitions continued by the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company for their expanded watershed areas, a few of Easton’s original thirteen school districts had already merged and some of the outlying school houses closed. By the spring of 1920, Sport Hill and the old Staples Academy were the largest in physical size and the only two schools to employ two teachers each. The town closed the Adams School at the end of 1919 with the teacher, Miss Bennett, going to teach at the Academy, and her students transferred to Sport Hill. The Wilson School on Black Rock Turnpike was overcrowded and consideration was being given to either expanding the building to two classrooms or closing it altogether. Judd had operated for the entire year, but in the fall of 1920, the students there would be attending the Yellow School (Everett). The only other remaining school was the Center Primary School on Westport Road. An interesting side note is that six out the seven buildings used that school year remain standing today, although the old Center School looks like it might soon succumb to the elements. Only the Judd School has disappeared.

There were a total of 167 registered students who were taught by a total of 8 teachers that year. High School students were transported to Bridgeport where the town paid their tuition. In a survey of three of the town’s school buildings containing five teachers (those numbers alone would indicate that two of those schools were Sport Hill and the Academy), it was found that out of 118 students only 40 of them had “some school books of some kind or other.” In the lower room of the Academy, a total of 8 geography books were found, 7 of which represented completely different texts. The system of the day consisted of the teachers being allowed to order books individually and then sell them to the students.

Absence from class that year was deemed higher than acceptable, and one of the reasons given was excessive illness. There was no school nurse in Easton in 1920, but the school committee was seriously considering one as a means of identifying children with communicable diseases and curable ailments, and then getting them removed from school and to a clinic where they might receive adequate treatment.

The entire school budget for the 1919-1920 school year was $8,346.91. Based on the monies Easton received in state aid and grants, that amounted to a town expenditure of $26 per pupil. Even when using the Federal Government Bureau of Labor’s Consumer Price Index inflation adjustment, that only translates into $302.64 per student in today’s dollars, and a total town education budget of $96,808.83.

Old annual town reports are fascinating reading, and here at the Historical Society of Easton we are preserving ours as an open window to the past, where future generations will be able to look back to see just how far we’ve come and wonder in awe of how  previous generations accomplished so much with so little that was provided them.

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