Believe it or not, there is a one room schoolhouse in the South Bend School district. It could be 150 years old. But it was nearly destroyed in an arson fire last year, and to fix it up a local teacher needs help.
The schoolhouse, now located behind Rise Up Academy in St. Joseph County, first appears in the Cass County record books in 1872. It had been sitting empty and dilapidated since at least 1959 when Tom Schultz, a local teacher came upon it in a farm field the 90's.
"If a class was coming to visit, this is one of the things I would do everyday," says Schultz as he sweeps the front stoop of the schoolhouse.
Schultz is probably one of the only teachers in Indiana that gets to open up a one-room schoolhouse in the morning -- or, at least he used to be.
"This is the damage," says Schultz as he surveys a charred black wall.
A fire nearly destroyed the tiny schoolhouse in April 2010. Schultz says whoever started stuffed and and twigs against the outside wall of the school and lit it on fire. The front of the building went up in flames and burnt through much of the inside wall.
"You can see where some of the fire left soot clear up the side of the building. So it was within a couple minutes of being totally gone," says Schultz.
The schoolhouse originally sat in a farm field in Cass County. Schultz says it is as least about 150 years old. While the record books first show its existance in 1872 Schultz believes, that based on the construction of the school, it could be much older. Back in the 90's students and faculty at Eggleston Elementary, where Schultz worked at the time, raised thousands of dollars to move the schoolhouse and fix it up. The idea was students could learn about nature in the outdoor lab and about history in the schoolhouse.
"It was great to have kids in here, and hear kids voices for the first time and we have had a lot of kids out here over the years," says Schultz.
The kids were able to enjoy the refurbished original wood-burning stove, see original woodwork and windows and feel what it was like to learn inside a one-room schoolhouse.
"As you look out of the windows here out toward the back of the school, this is what kids would have looked at a hundred years ago," says Schultz.
But since the fire, no children have been inside. And last week, more vandalism. Graffiti covered the side of the schoolhouse. Schultz though, isn't giving up. He wants to give the schoolhouse and local history another chance.
"When you do these kinds of things, you deal with it. The graffiti. You move on. If you let it stop you, you're done so you keep moving, keep going," says Schultz.
There is no estimate on how much it will cost to fix. Schultz is hoping people will donate money or elbow grease.
For more information on how you can help, call Rise Up Academy at 574-243-7300 or email Tom Schultz: firstname.lastname@example.org