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About this Exploration:
Schoenchen's first school building still stands. It's now a residence at 109 Arapahoe, just east of the two-story limestone home that was the most recent parish rectory.
The school was originally a 20 X 30 limestone structure built in 1880, after the colonists organized the first tax-supported school district. Even before that education was a priority for the community. The first teacher, John Dreher, taught religion, reading, writing and singing in his home. By 1904, the parish had built a convent and brought Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia to teach in the public school.
A later two-story limestone school still stands, facing west just north of the St. Anthony Church. It was constructed in 1917, with an attached convent as living quarters for the sisters. It, too, is now a private home. Sisters who taught the first six grades were paid by the parish. The sister who taught seventh and eighth grade was paid by the district. After 1940, the parochial school changed fully to a public school and religion was taught before school hours. Hays USD 489 operated the Schoenchen school after consolidation. The Schoenchen Grade School was closed in 1996 when enrollment fell below the level required for accreditation.
In 1926, the community passed a $20,000 bond issue to construct a 73 X 36, 16-room red brick high school with a gym, on the south edge of town. It drew students from nearby towns of Liebenthal, Loretto, Pfeifer, Munjor and Antonino. A 1939 photo shows about 70 students from the high school. During the pastorate of MSGR. Francis Riedel (1932 to 1961), approximately 120 students were enrolled in the elementary school, taught by four sisters. A larger limestone gym was constructed with WPA labor in 1938, which still stands. It now serves as an office for Castle Resources, an oil production company. The brick high school was destroyed in a fire in 1975.
Numerous photos of various Schoenchen schools are included in a chapter on education the Schoenchen history book, "Our Ancestors' Quest for Freedom Realized in Schoenchen, Kansas." It was compiled for the town's centennial in 1976 by Fr. Alvin Werth, O.F.M. Cap., M.A. Now in its third printing, the book is available at the Ellis County History Museum gift shop, 100 W. Seventh, Hays.
100 E. 19th
Hays, KS 67601