Evaline School began as a one room schoolhouse by another name in 1883 and was destroyed by a falling tree within a few years. A second school was called “Brown’s School” because the lumber was donated by Brown’s Mill. Then the name was changed to Evaline after the postmaster’s wife. A fire then destroyed that building in 1925 and that’s when the current school was built.
Head Teacher, Annie Robinson, has been at Evaline for ten years. “Lots of people think it is a private or charter school,” she says. “But it’s its own school district.”
Evaline shares superintendent Kyle MacDonald with Pe Ell since they are both small school districts. He goes to Evaline once a week and the rest of the time Robinson takes care of daily administrative duties.
There are two full-time teachers and three part-time teachers who come in to teach subjects such as Social Studies, Science, PE and music. “We used to have to do it all,” explains Robinson, so having the extra help gives the full-time teachers a chance to take care of all the reporting requirements.
“I subbed for a year in Portland, then came back and taught out at Boistfort. Then this job came open. I knew this was my dream job,” Robinson smiles. The major difference between Evaline and most schools is that Evaline has only two classrooms and so has multiple grades in each room. One room holds 26 kids in kindergarten, first and second grades. The other room has 30 kids in grades three, four, five and six.
It was daunting at first, according to Robinson. “It’s a lot of curriculum to teach, to figure out what can be taught to all the grades at once and what has to be taught separately. But the good thing is, you don’t have to start over with new students every year. By the end of four years you know all the kids and their families. If there are any problems they are easy to solve quickly. I really like that.”
Sarah Mittge teaches part time at the school, providing the social studies and science curriculum. “The way small schools work as teams is really interesting to me as it is unique and a bit different from the way larger districts work and access resources,” she says. “These teachers take on huge workloads but have found creative ways to utilize Educational Assistants and share this load as teams that support student learning.”
“One thing I am really impressed with is how quickly Evaline teachers are able to identify and serve student needs. Teachers know each of these kids and can zero in on needs and services in ways that larger districts struggle with. It does not take months getting to know students to know what strengths and weaknesses a student has beginning a school year. Nor do students need to wait for testing before interventions can begin. Because of the low numbers, students do not need to wait in a queue. Teachers in multi-age, small-school settings have to be experts at everything. They are pretty amazing to watch.”
Tiny, precocious, six-year-old Abigail Spain just started at Evaline School this year. Last year she went to school in Longview. “It was big – there were three classrooms for each grade,” she says wide-eyed. She goes on to animatedly describe the Evaline building with its two classrooms, upstairs lunchroom and basement area, using her hands to show the way the cubbies take up space in the classroom. “It’s kind of small because of how it’s shaped,” she says with six-year-old authority.
She loves the multi-age setting. “When I read, the second graders will help me if I make a mistake. And I really like reading to the kindergarteners and I can ask the second graders if I have any questions.”
Abigail says the lunchroom is the biggest difference between Evaline and her old school, where they ate lunch in their classroom. “I like it better eating in the lunchroom than in a small classroom.”
Her enthusiasm gets the greatest, though, when asked about the playground which looks rather small. “No!” she exclaims. “It’s bigger. We have a whole field to run and play in!” All the elaborate playgrounds at so many schools – and a simple field to run in wins the day. But she has one more favorite thing about the playground. “People can push you on the swing! At my old school no one could push us and you would work forever to get high. I love being pushed on the swing.”
So what would a six-year-old in a two-room schoolhouse tell other families thinking about moving into the district? “It’s just the best school ever,” Abigail says with a shrug, as if it should be as obvious to everyone else as it is to her.
111 Schoolhouse Rd.
Winlock WA 98596