OPAL GRIFFITH OF Ripon displays the model of a one-room school house she built herself. 		     Ian Stepleton photo
OPAL GRIFFITH OF Ripon displays the model of a one-room school house she built herself. Ian Stepleton photo

     ... For the past few years, Opal Griffiths has been researching and writing about one-room schoolhouses to preserve their history.

     While some may feel disconnected from today’s educational structure, Opal recalls these one-room schools as being especially democratic.

     “There were so many good things that came from them. And [they] belonged to the community,” she said. “The people could get together. They had some voice in it.”

     She should know. A retired educator herself, Opal began her career as a one-room school teacher — an experience she relished.

     “I started in ’46 [in a one-room school]. Must have been 12 or 14 years [I taught in one],” Opal said. “... I taught at West Alto, which is in the southwestern [area from Ripon]. It was a Dutch school ... That school up there is Holmes School [pointing to a photo on her wall]. That’s on 49 going out of Ripon, toward Brandon, toward Equity [Cooperative Livestock]. There are 31 students up there, and I was the highest paid in Fond du Lac County.”

     It was there, at Holmes School, that, for several years, she taught Mark Conrad, Ripon’s youngest mayor at 21 years of age, who went on to become a “Distinguished Alumnus” of Ripon High School.

     In fact, he dedicated his award in 2014 in part to Opal.

     Though she later went on to teach in Brandon in what is now considered a traditional school, Opal’s interest and love for the one-room school never waned. ...

     To read the entire column, see the Feb. 1, 2018 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.