By Scott Halasz
It started as a means to educate neighborhood kids in northern Xenia Township, and nearly 120 years later, the Collins School continues to teach students using traditional methods.
Visitors won’t find iPads, dry erase boards or even carpet in this quaint little building, constructed in 1879 as a one-room school house on West Enon Road. Instead, students visiting for a one-day field trip or a multi-day summer camp will learn the way students did in the the 1800s.
They’ll eat lunch on stoops and rocks, play old-fashioned games at recess, and sit in a classroom without central air conditioning or heating, according to Xenia resident Janine Montgomery, whose ancestors opened the original building in 1854. The structure erected in 1879 replaced this original one.
Back then, the enrollment consisted mainly of kids from the Collins Neighborhood, which was aptly named as most of the residents were members of the Collins family.
“At that time, behind where the school sits, my ancestors, Samuel and Rebecca McClellan Collins, were bringing up their children and they wanted a school in their neighborhood,” Montgomery said.
Samuel and Rebecca Collins sold 1.28 acres of their land — first to Beavercreek Township, which then became Xenia Township for the purpose of building a school, Montgomery said. Two schools were actually constructed prior to the current building.
Children in grades one through eight attended but, as numbers dwindled in 1944 toward the end of World War II, the building closed.
Frederick August Requarth, who owned a lumber company, purchased the school and home that still sit on the property but, after his death, his widow did not maintain the building.
“It just looked like a jungle covering the school,” Montgomery said. Her parents, Virgil and Helen Brantley, purchased the property from the Requarth family and began the restoration process.
“Their first goal was to start with the house and make it more livable for a modern family,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery’s sister and brother-in-law, Betsy and David Crandall, moved into the home in the 1980s and still reside there.
Restoration specialist Steve May was charged with restoring the school and, after 18 months, had the school looking like it did centuries ago.
After the Brantleys had visited another one-room school that was being utilized to teach current students about old-fashioned education, they knew exactly what they were going to do with their building.
Dedicated in 1986, students from Xenia schools were the first to experience the new Collins School. Former teachers Naomi Whitaker and Ann Stratton developed the curriculum and guided the students through the process.
Teachers throughout Greene County and surrounding areas soon caught on and began sending students on field trips, as well. Kids are encouraged to dress up in old-fashioned clothes, and even bring food that would have been era-appropriate.
The next summer camp will be held the last week of June 2016.
Scott Halasz is a graduate of THE Ohio State University and has focused on Greene County news and sports for more than a decade. When he’s not plugging away on a keyboard, he’s spending time with his family, and quietly praying that the Cubs win a World Series before a new team that doesn’t even exist yet does. Reach him at email@example.com.