Grove Elementary School History
Pantagraph article about Grove School's predecessor and the Kraft Family
Published on November 30, 2000
When Grove Elementary School opens next fall in north Normal, it will have room for hundreds more students than its namesake held.
The two schools, however, will remain linked. They not only share the same name and similar locations, but connect the past and present of one local family.
The Kraft family - brothers Ed and Dave Kraft and sisters Anne Laundra and Rosemary Kerber - suggested Grove Elementary as the name for the 550-student elementary school at Shepard and Airport roads.
A panel of residents and the Unit 5 school board selected the Grove Elementary name in October. Another new school, Fox Creek Elementary, will be located in southwest Bloomington.
For the Kraft family, Grove Elementary is more than just a name. It's part of their family history.
Anne Laundra, now living in Michigan, and Dave Kraft of Normal attended the original one-room Grove School, which was at the corner of what are now Hershey and Raab roads. Their father, Raymond, headed the rural district's three-person school board.
The family lived on a 220-acre farm one mile east of the original school. The school was established in 1866, and a new building was built in 1891. The new Grove Elementary will be located on a section of the Kraft farmland.
Dave Kraft, 65, attended the school from 1940 to 1945, when he was in grades 1 through 5. His older sister, Anne, attended when she was in grades 1 through 7.
"At the time, the one-room schoolhouses were winding down," Kraft said.
"The norm being 20 to 30 kids in a class today is a tremendous difference," he said. "It was just a whole different atmosphere."
There also were socioeconomic differences among the students, said Kraft. Some were children of hired farm hands; others were the children of land owners.
"I feel because of the constant one-on-one teaching, it was probably every bit as good as it is today," he said.
The school closed in 1945 after the building was moved from its foundation during a windstorm. The rural district joined with a neighboring district in Towanda Township.
The 1891 building still stands. It's a home now, although a small "Grove School" sign in the front yard is a reminder of its previous life.
Another reminder likely will be displayed in the new Grove school. The Kraft family has offered to donate the bell that once hung in the original school. The bell, which weighs several hundred pounds, is now in Michigan.
Superintendent Bob Malito said the bell will be put on a pedestal outside the school. Malito said the opening of Grove Elementary will signal Unit 5's "commitment to the past."
School board Vice President Gail Ann Briggs agreed. "I think there are too many times when the old is discarded," she said. "I think that's just a really neat kind of follow-through."
Reprinted from the Pantagraph