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Rural education ruled Rifle area

Amanda Holt MillerTelegram Staff Writer
Photo courtesy RIFLE CREEK MUSEUM.
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Cheryl Morgans mother, Gladys Adams, was a schoolteacher in the 1920s. She traveled from rural community to rural community and lived with the families of the children she taught.Thats how school worked back then, Cheryl said. Families got together, built a schoolhouse and hired a teacher.Mary Jane Meads father and grandfather went to a little rural schoolhouse like the ones Gladys Adams taught in. James Estes, Mary Janes grandfather, was a boy among the earliest settlers on the Taughenbaugh Mesa. He went to the Beaver Creek Schoolhouse, a little red building that still stands on the Rifle-Rulison Road.James and his son Jesse ended their schooling in eighth grade at the little school.But they could do math in their heads, Mary Jane said. I didnt learn math like that until I was in high school.

High school was the sort of privilege in frontier days that college is today. High schools were in the cities, and if a family couldnt afford to keep a place in town for those years and didnt have a relative the child could stay with, there was no school beyond the eighth grade.That is, unless, a dedicated student was willing to ride his horse the seven miles one way that Sidney Potter managed every day, even in the winter. He graduated from Grand Valley High School in 1916. The family always went to Rifle for supplies, but the town was almost 10 miles away.When youre riding horseback, said Sam Potter, Sidneys son, three miles makes a big difference.Sidneys father, Samuel, was the superintendent for the Garfield County School District until he died in 1929.He had little country schools to visit all the way out at the state line, Sam said.

The Garfield School District Re-2 wasnt formed until 1963, according to Rifle Shots. At that time, all of the schools in the area were consolidated, and students were bused from the country to the three little schools in Rifle Esma Lewis Elementary School, named for a pioneer teacher from the Antlers area, the junior high and the high school.The district encompasses about 800 square miles and includes New Castle, Silt, Rifle and all of the former rural districts named for the creeks where they were built.A new high school, Coal Ridge, opens this year. It will be the first time Silt has had a school since the district consolidated, said Gary Pack, the current Re-2 superintendent.These people have been asking for a school for decades, Pack said at the schools grand opening in July 2005. This is pretty special for these folks.


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