Earlier attempts to locate a group to take over the property have fallen short and they’ve been in the hunt again over the summer.
They found the solution recently when the Morenci Education Foundation agreed to take over ownership of the historic building.
Five members of the foundation board joined Bill Van Valkenburg Sunday afternoon for a ceremonial transfer of ownership at the school.
With board members and guests seated in student desks, Peggy Zachel sat at the teacher’s desk and spoke about the renovation of the school house. Much of her talk focused on a man at the back of the room, Jack Sampson, who spent countless hours on the project for no pay.
“He never took a penny from us,” Peggy said. “It’s a work of love.”
The school had been vacant for more than 40 years before Sampson got busy painting walls, refinishing the floor, rehabilitating old desks stored in the basement of the school, etc.
Peggy pointed to various items around the room and told foundation members the origin of each.
For example, the quilt was given to her by students she taught in a rural school in 1939. A library case came from the University of Michigan. The stove came from an estate sale—Peggy and Lori Drogowski scrubbed and scrubbed to get it clean.
“I’m so glad you’re taking it because John and I are no longer able to do it,” Peggy said. “It takes work. It’s going to be a big job, but an interesting one.”
Van Valkenburg said the foundation board will discuss plans for the school over the winter.
“Our goal is not just to preserve it as a museum, but to send some classrooms of kids out here to experience what school was like 60 years ago,” he said. “The Zachels have done a wonderful job.”
He would also like to contact former students of the school to talk about the recollections of their time spent there. The school was closed in 1957 when rural districts consolidated with the school in Morenci.
Van Valkenburg said a fund will be established within the foundation to help with maintenance of the facility. Some donations have already been given to the Lenawee Community Foundation and he’s hoping that money will be added to the Morenci Education Foundation funds.
The North Morenci School Cookbook was sold out, he said, but a new printing of 200 copies is ready for sale to continue that fund-raising effort.
Routine expenses will include utilities and the cost of the security system, but Van Valkenburg would also like to acquire additional school desks for visiting students.