So, this is fourth and last in my series of posts about Amish schools. I have a booklet which I borrowed from an Amish school board member that gives lots of information, so I’ll borrow from that for this post.
This school year (2017-2018) there are exactly 100 Amish schools in the tri-county area (Elkhart, Lagrange, and Noble counties, in northeastern Indiana). Five were new this year—Anderson Trail, Scenic Hills, Power Line, Orchard View, and Pigeon River. The newer schools are generally built with metal or vinyl siding (white) and a shingled or metal roof. Hot water heat is usually built into the floor, and the water well is powered by a battery pack. Often there is a second building used for storage, power sources, and as a horse barn.
Each school is run by a three-man school board consisting of local parents. The schools are grouped into districts of 12-15 schools, and above that, there is a state Amish school board. The tri-county area also has special committees for special education, testing, teacher workshops, and buildings. There is a special new “Schools for Schools” board which endeavors to help with the financing of new schools; counting land costs, a new school can cost $140,000 to build!
Who are the teachers in these schools? They are chosen from within the Amish community itself. The teachers (most are female but some are male) will have had only an eighth grade education themselves, but they need to have scored at the 10th grade level on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. They get further training through periodic teachers’ meetings (every six weeks) and by reading the Amish teachers’ magazine called The Blackboard Bulletin. Some teachers live in special teacher’s quarters which are often built into the newer schoolhouses. Their pay comes from tuition fees paid by the students. Most of the schools have two or three teachers, but a few have four.
The 100 schools in the tri-county area are mostly recent, as the Amish population has exploded (and more Amish parents withdrew their children from public school). One was built in the 1940s; one in the 1950s; eighteen in the 1960s; fifteen in the 1970s; seventeen in the 1980s; twenty-one from 2000-2010; and twenty-seven since 2010.
I love the names of the schools! Most are chosen for some geographical attribute of the area. My favorites are Cottonwood Grove, Triple Bend, Singing Hills, Peaceful Meadow, Tollway View, Sunny Ridge, Birdsong Echoes, Blue Heron, and Little Acorn.
If you drive through Amish Indiana, you’ll see one of these buildings, with their yard full of bicycles, baseball diamonds, and bells on top, every few miles. It’s okay to slow down and get a better look, or even take photos—as long the children aren’t outside playing.