By Steve Peterson
“That’s my school,” said Betty Cooper as she saw Reading Township School No. 2, known as Bud Kemper School, in Ireton on Sept. 28 during the 75th Birthday Party Open House for the one-room school.
“It was the envy of Union County, S.D., when it was known as Edwards School. I taught there from for three years,” said Cooper at an Ireton Area Historical Society 75th Anniversary event for the school, which traces its history to the 1930s as a square-designed school.
“I had 19 kids in class. The first graders would sit in the desks on the far left, then the eighth graders had the big desks. I used to ring the bell for the start of school each day and for recess,” said Cooper, who lives in Alcester, S.D.
Inhabitants of the school in addition to daily teaching were at times a rabbit and a dog.
Now known as “Kemper School”, the school was constructed during the summer of 1938 to replace an earlier school building.
Sioux County Superintendent Charles True’s school design included a square, cottage-style building, a library, modern furnace, separate cloakrooms for girls and boys, chemical toilets, good windows for natural light, a cement basement; cyclone cellar and for some, electricity.
The school was originally located on the northeast corner of Fig Avenue and 460th Street, about two miles northeast of Ireton.
The new school building was dedicated on Nov. 25, 1938. The first teacher there was Bernice Van Wyhe (later Mrs. Lorenz Janssen). Classes were held in the one-room school until the Spring of 1954. Then children attended the Ireton Public School.
On Aug. 28, 1955, the school was sold to Virginia Township, Union County School Board and moved about three miles northwest of Hawarden when it was known as the Edwards School and later Greater Scott School. Scott School was closed in 1976 when students attended West Sioux Community Schools, and it was empty until 1992 when the Ireton Area Historical Society bought it and moved it to a new foundation, on Ash Street, near the Ireton Historical House. In 1995 it was dedicated in the memory of Floyd E. “Bud” Kemper.
“It is one of the older country schoolhouses. It’s good for the kids to see,” said Marsha Brown.
“Former Sioux County Superintendent of Schools Charles True had schools made to look like a house so they could be sold if there was consolidation,” said Janet Brown.
“I used to ride to school on a school bus that had a 1926 Chevrolet Chassis. We played a lot of games, like drowning out squirrels, kick-the-can, softball and hide-and-go-seek,” said Eugene Eisma, a Reading School alum.
“We knew we were going to be the last graduating class, in 1959. It’s nice. A lot of people worked on it,” said Jerry Vlotho, who helped paint the building.
Marlene Eilts, who attended country schools in the area, noticed a book of American songs on a piano bench.
The warm and sun-splashed last Sunday in September featured a crowd of more than 50 people who came and saw a flag raising by Janice Fedders and Shirley Ten Napel; signed in; there were kids games and refreshments at the next door Ireton Historical House. One could view posters honoring the school’s 75th anniversary made by West Sioux Elementary School students.
Reading Township’s first school was established in Section 33 in 1870; students in northern Reading Township attended school at the “Tarbox School” in northeast Washington Township; Grades First through Eighth usually attended one room schoolhouses but some had two rooms; In 1870, there were six schoolhouses in Sioux County, 13 years later, there were 82. Country schools totaled 170 in 1918 but were reduced in number to 75 by the time True retired in 1956. True visited the schoolhouses once a year.
All rural schools in the Ireton area were closed by the start of the 1959-1960 school year when Ireton, Hawarden, Chatsworth and rural areas became West Sioux Community School District.
West Sioux Elementary School‘s preschool to fourth grade students participated in a poster contest for “Bud” Kemper School in Ireton for a 75th anniversary event for the school held by Ireton Area Historical Society.
Coloring contest winners
Pre-School: 1. Aria Brenner; 2. Cora Fedders; Honorable Mention Carly Van Horssen, Aubrey Vonk.
Kindergarten/T-K: 1. Wyatt Wielinga; 2. Dilon Cervantes; Honorable Mention Alexis Allen, Becky Bos, Alondra Duarte, Alan Flores-Duenas, Shaylie Lopez, Angel Topete, Zoe Vander Zwaag, Elsie Westergard, Sophie Wilbert.
First Grade: 1. Addison Liston; 2. Ramon Segura; Honorable Mention Joshua Abbas, Yael Andrade, Bryce Fedders, Emily Noteboom, Ava Noyes, Karina Topete, Stephanie Topete, Ashton Weidd.
Second-Third Grades: 1. Cassady Dekkers; 2. Matthew Abbas; Honorable Mention Treyton Bonnema, Shauna Salker.
Fourth Grade: 1. Lila Sieck; 2. Benjamin Noteboom; Honorable Mention Olivia Fedders, Sydney Miedema, Levi Sieck.