Old Calaveras school returning from recess

January 30, 2003 12:00 am

By SCOTT PESZNECKER

The white paint is peeling off the front porch railings at the Douglas Flat School. The front door — awkwardly wide — is painted a baffling shade of yellow.

No longer are there sounds of youngsters chanting multiplication tables or scratching letters on their slates.

But a rebirth is afoot.

Leading to the aging building — believed to be the oldest single-room school house in Calaveras County — is a fresh set of stairs.

Neighbor Annie Stevenot and many other county residents hope the rest of the schoolhouse will someday look as sharp as that staircase.

"I love this old historic building," said Stevenot, president of Friends of the Schoolhouse, a volunteer group dedicated to restoring the old building.

"We will put this school house to use for what it was made for, which is community education."

Set back from Douglas Flat's Main Street, the building is showing its age.

A wood-plank floor moans with each footstep, and the boards sag in spots.

Most of the spacious room is cleared. Thin sheets of plastic cover four rectangular glass windows on each side of the large room.

The classroom is getting some use — a pair of flags from a Boy Scout troop hangs over the back doorway, which once led to another room but now yields to the open air.

Sitting near the far corner of the room are two objects that would catch the eye of any foothills history buff: An old desk, scuffed, worn and blotched with ink and paint, and next to it, a chair with a sunken seat.

That schoolmaster's chair and desk have remained since the school was built in 1854.

Columbia resident Joanne Nahmias — a retired principal and teacher who now volunteers at the historic schoolhouse at Columbia State Historic Park — said that when Douglas Flat held its first classes in 1856, the room was most likely split down the middle: boys on one side, girls on the other.