LAKE MILLS - Classes haven't been held in Burnap School, also known as Newton No. 5, for almost 50 years, but if you look inside the quaint, white frame building it seems like the students just left for home and are expected back tomorrow.
Little wooden desks stand in neat rows in the country schoolhouse that served children in Newton Township from 1935 to 1953.
"It's fun to see what they carved in them," said Sandy DeVries, co-president of the Lake Mills Area Historical Society. The school also contains a recitation bench, a combination player/standard piano and a water jug.
The school, which was moved from Leland to Lake Mills a year ago, has been restored by the historical society as a living museum. It will be open to the public for the first time from noon to 5 p.m. on July 13-14 in conjunction with the town's July Jubilee. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. on July 13.
DeVries said area schools are encouraged to bring students to the country schoolhouse for field trips. She noted bus tours that go to The Promise of America statue in Lake Mills also will stop at the schoolhouse.
Lou Ann Steffensen Mikes of Des Moines, who attended the school when she was growing up, and her parents, DeVere and Clarine Steffensen of Lake Mills, bought the school from the township and donated it to the historical society. Al Larson of Lake Mills donated the land at 308 N. Mill Street for the building.
DeVries said Mikes visited the school recently and was able to remember a lot of things that happened during her school days. She even recalled the time when some of the boys crept into the attic while the teacher was out getting water and fell through the tile ceiling into the classroom below.
DeVries said the building was in bad shape before the historical society acquired it, but the group was able to retain the original walls, floor and windows. "We have not replaced anything," she said.
Although historical society members did the actual restoration work, other volunteers from the community helped paint the building, DeVries said. They also donated many items. DeVries said people had the items because every time a country school closed an auction was held to dispose of the contents.
The student desks came from a number of country schools in the area, but many other items, such as the teacher's desk, the recitation bench, the piano and many of the books, were used at Burnap School Newton No. 5. DeVries said one of the books still had a note tucked inside from a teacher to a student's mother, asking if she would bake cookies for a Halloween party.
Two phonographs were donated to the historical society for the school. One is from the era the school was in use, but the other is an Edison phonograph from the World War I era that still works.
Before the school was built in the 1930s an older school stood on the same site in Newton Township. The new school was constructed next to the old one. DeVries said one former student told her he remembers carrying books from the old school to the new building. She noted she doesn't know what happened to the old school, but it would be nice to find out.
The historical society held bake sales and is selling T-shirts and cookbooks to raise money for the schoolhouse restoration. Another way the society is raising funds is by allowing people to pay to have their names and anything else they want engraved in individual bricks for the walkway leading to the school. Ben Mannes installed the bricks as his Eagle Scout project.
One man who paid to have a brick engraved asked to have "Education is life" put on it. "I thought that was neat," DeVries said.
After the July Jubilee the school will be open to the public from 1 to 5 p.m. each Sunday during the summer. Tours at other times must be arranged by calling historical society co-secretary Helene Iverson at (641) 592-4153, co-treasurer Mildrid Nickson at (641) 592-3432 or DeVries at (641) 590-1871.
Reach Mary Pieper at 421-0578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.