Recalling Woodfords school

More than windows are boarded up in the old stone schoolhouse in Woodfords, because memories are locked away, too.

Figuratively peeking through those windows, Mabel Love is seated at the teacher's desk in that one-room school. The time frame is set in the '40s and '50s. She and her husband Lou had spent many years camping along the West Fork of the Carson River before they bought property in Woodfords in 1947. Lou labored to handcraft the home of their dreams and soon was appointed judge of the Alpine County Justice Court. Mabel took over teaching all eight grades at the nearby school up on the hill. There were 12 students, with enrollment eventually increasing to 20.

She loved her work and explained, "It was interesting. I took the little ones early in the day, and the older children would help the young ones with their studies. I enjoyed the Indian children and appreciated learning more about their culture. They were good students, and I never had any discipline problems with them."

After 10 years of teaching, Love retired, only to be elected as Alpine County Superintendent of Schools for a four-year term. She supervised three districts; Woodfords, Paynesville and Markleeville.

Now, of course, the school system has consolidated and expanded. Dr. James Parsons, appointed District Superintendent since 1988, is also the elected County Superintendent of Schools, and he supervises seven schools.

The largest is Diamond Valley School in Woodfords with 99 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, and 5.5 classroom teachers, one special education teacher, one speech teacher, four instructional aides, one library/media coordinator, one student services coordinator and one administrative assistant to the principal.

The school that could be compared size-wise to the old stone school is Bear Valley Elementary School, kindergarten through eighth grade, because there are 14 students, taught by only one teacher and two assistant/aides. The difference is that all Bear Valley students, whether they are in elementary or high school, walk, snowshoe, snowmobile or ski to school.

Bear Valley High School, in eastern Alpine County, has four students. While 35 of the western Alpine County high school students are bussed down to Douglas High School, Woodfords High School is an alternative school, with nine students. Each of these two "necessary small schools," employ two teachers Ð one for language and history and one for science and math. Dr. Parsons is proud of the fact that after a two-year process, both of these high schools received full six-year accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and he says, "Our students can achieve the same level as those who have graduated from Beverly Hills High School."

There are two community day schools, one for elementary students at Diamond Valley, and one for secondary students at the Early Learning Center in Paynesville; with a total of seven students enrolled and two teachers. The Opportunity Class at Hung-A-Lel-Ti is considered to be another school.

Ginger Craik, who is the only teacher for four students says, "I like really getting to know the kids. I have time to discuss their problems. I've been teaching this class since 1990, and I've had a good ongoing rapport with most of their parents over the years."

Being the sole instructor has drawbacks, such as being isolated from colleagues, but Craik nevertheless is enthusiastic about her job. At the present time, she is teaching one student in fifth grade, two in sixth and one in eleventh.

Alpine County Office of Education also has jurisdiction over the Early Learning Center, with three staff members taking care of 16 infants, and three staff members teaching 37 preschoolers.

"We are ahead of the game with our early emphasis on preschool education, because we anticipate that the California State Board of Education will be mandating the development of preschool programs," Parsons said.

Terrie Peets, Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent, has been on the job since 1989. She not only loves the pastoral view from her window, but she also loves her work.

"It really is a people business, not just the kids, but also the families of those kids. I truly enjoy the contact with those who live in our community, and those in the education system itself."

Peets described the after school program at Diamond Valley School, "Jackie Tan and Patty DeMaio are doing a great job, with one third of our students staying after school for extra learning activities and playtime."

The program is open five days a week, from 3 to 6 p.m.

Times are really different from fifty years ago, when "Mom" stayed home. Now, children need care while "Mom" works Ð and the Alpine County school system certainly is providing that care and education for all stages of childhood.

n Gina Gigli lives in Markleeville. Reach her at 530-694-2253


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