WOODLAND PARK, NJ - The Alfred Baumann Library recently hosted a special Zoom webinar with Woodland Park historian Rick Lijoi, who talked about the history of schools in the Borough. “One-Room Schoolhouses in WP” was attended by dozens of community members, as well as the local Brownie troop.
It is not known the exact date, but in the early- to mid-1800s, the first school in town, School 2, opened on Rifle Camp Road. Formerly a church, the building is now used by Bromilow’s Chocolates as storage for the store. As the town grew, in 1868, School 3 opened on McBride Avenue, which is still used today as the Board of Education building.
Until 1914, Woodland Park was called the West Park section of Little Falls, and the two schools in town were part of Little Falls’ five-school district. The two schools here were districted, just as they are today. In 1912, School 6 was built, which is now known as School 1, on McBride Avenue.
The two early one-room buildings were served by a single teacher who very strictly taught all subjects to students in first to eighth grade, Lijoi noted. Students broke up into groups to study, and there were very few books in those days. The basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic were the focus, but students also sang, acted, learned about geography, and enjoyed recess outside.
Students wrote with chalk and slate, and pen and ink, and the classroom was heated with a pot-belly stove. There were big windows to get lots of light, as there was no electricity. Attendance was poor in the early days, as children had chores on their family’s farm, especially in the spring and fall. Woodland Park had several dairy farms back then. Lijoi noted that only about 50 percent of children went to school in the early days. Attendance of school was not made mandatory, for those aged 7 to 16, by the government until 1915.