story by: angela brandt
page design by: stacey mantle
Paul Sebey drives 100 miles every weekday to transport his son Dominic to and from Davey School.
“Why he's there? You know you will never see another school like this. I would have liked to go to a school like this but I didn't have the opportunity,” Sebey said.
Dominic said the school is the best he's ever been to.
“I've been here longer than anybody, even the teacher,” the seventh-grader said Wednesday, his 14th birthday. He's been attending the school since fourth grade.
“The school is very old. One hundred years old. I know because I am a smart kid,” Davey School kindergartner Kougar Lanier said.
Davey School, a two-building school in a field off a dirt road about 10 miles southeast of Havre, is celebrating its 100th birthday Tuesday.
The school was named after John Davey, who established the school in 1906.
While Paul Sebey has to depend on his four-wheel drive vehicle to get Dominic to schools, Robert Davey, John Davey's grandson, didn't have that luxury. Robert, now 85, relied on a four-hoof ride or hoofed it himself. But, he only had to travel a little more than a mile to get to school in the late 1920s.
Did Robert think the school would last 100 years when he was a student?
“We didn't worry about them things back then,” he said.
When Robert attended the school it was in the original building, which consisted of one room. Two outhouses and a barn for the students' horses were also on the land. The original schoolhouse was built in 1908 and was moved to the location of the current school buildings in 1927 after the land it sat on was sold.
“We used to get to school in the morning and put on coal for the teacher,” Robert said. “We'd try to put enough coal to stay all night and keep the school from freezing, but it'd usually go out by the morning.”
“It's better now. They don't have to pack coal,” he added.
Robert lives in the house his grandfather built. It's the same house where he and his wife, Minnie, raised their four children, who all attended the Davey School.
Robert's son Fred, 56, attended the school for nine years. He liked the school so much he repeated second grade, he joked.
Fred said the school didn't change too much from the time his father attended - the major differences being the installation of indoor plumbing and the demolition of the barn.
The Daveys farm the land surrounding the school and live in houses near each other.
Wes Davey, 27, said his favorite memories of his time at the school are riding his horse to school and playing kickball.
“On Fridays, we'd play kickball all day long, well, most of the day,” Wes said.
Some of the kids rode horses to school every day, he added.
“We would drive, well, my mom would,” his father, Fred, said.
The Daveys have almost always had a family member on the school board, but no Daveys have ever taught at the school.
The old school building was moved again so a new building could be built in the late 1980s. Another building followed in the late '90s. But reminders of the old school remain, like the flag pole and the cistern. A few of the bookshelves from the old building are used today.
“The teacher's desk that was there when I was there is in my house now,” Fred said.
The hand-held school bell, which was rung by second-grader Rachel David at the end of recess Wednesday, also remains from Fred's time as a student.
Robert said a lot has changed over the years.
“We all took sack lunch. That never changed,” Fred said.
Only now the “sacks” are vinyl bags with the latest cartoon character's picture on the front.
Fred and Wes said they are impressed with how hi-tech the school is now.
Would the Daveys trade their experiences at the school with that of today's students?
Fred said he'd rather go the new technology route.
“Now you'd learn a lot more. I'm on the computer at home all the time. You're never too old to learn,” he said.
Wes said he might get a better education now, but thought he had more fun and more individual time with the teacher when he attended.
The school now has seven kindergarten to third-grade students and nine fourth- to eighth-grade students and three teachers. The teachers work with students at each grade level and also combine all the grades for group activities and some subjects like music, art and health.
The two rooms are a mix of new technology and old-time favorites.
Above a row of computers, a bulletin board displays construction paper Valentine mice made by the children, with pink heart ears and ribbon tails. The blackboard and chalk have been replaced with a white board and markers. Students can no longer take their time at the metal manual pencil sharpener because there's an electric one that sharpens in seconds. The children do reading lessons on the computer instead of reading “Hop on Pop.” They learn geography with programs like “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”
Shelly Ohm, the school's special education teacher, attended Davey School from first to sixth grade. She later moved to Seattle and recently moved back into the house she grew up in about four miles from the school.
“It was fun and weird at the same time,” Ohm said of her return. “A lot of memories, yet so long ago.”
Her daughter now attends the school.
“She wanted to go to the same school her mom went to,” Ohm said.
Dennie Barnekoff has taught K-3 students at the school for three years. She said she enjoys the multi-age environment.
“I love it. I love the older kids working with the younger,” Barnekoff said.
Barnekoff said the school board, with chair Fred Davey, is very progressive and provides for all of the teachers' needs.
Teacher Leann Hughes is in her first year with the school.
Hughes said she likes the school's “out in the country” location.
“Sometimes the fields surrounding the school have cattle grazing,” Hughes said. “It's awesome.”
The fields and chomping cows belong to the Daveys.