During the 1922-23 school year, almost 6,500 one-room schools dotted the Wisconsin landscape. The number of one-room schools declined steadily as people moved into the cities, and as “progressive” ideas took hold in education. In 1960 there were 1,300 one-room public schools in Wisconsin.
But by 1970 there were none. What changed during the 1960s? What was school consolidation?
By Wisconsin statute, all elementary school districts had to merge with high school districts by July 1, 1962. Certain schools would have to be expanded, and some students would have long bus rides. The aim was to provide an equal education for all Wisconsin children, no matter where they lived.
In our area, consolidation combined parts or all of twenty-seven separate districts. Sunnyview closed in January 1961, after the neighborhood held one last Christmas program at the school.
The local transition was “remarkably calm,” according to the Eau Claire Leader. Elsewhere in Wisconsin, consolidation aroused passions on both sides. Some people criticised one-room schools for the uneven and sometimes inadequate preparation of the teachers, and the old-fashioned curriculum. Others defended the spirit of cooperation and the values that the small schools gave their students.
After Sunnyview closed at the end of the 1960-61 school year, County Superintendant Jennie Webster and Supervising Teacher Olga Martin organized a "penny drive," and area school children helped collect more than $1,500 in pennies to move the school to a location where it might be preserved.
In February 1963, the Eau Claire City Council approved what was then called "Museum Hill" in Carson Park as suitable spot for Sunnyview, and the school was moved that summer. As a debut, a teachers’ in-service was held in the school at its new home in Carson Park in April 1964.
Sunnyview School is owned and maintained by the City of Eau Claire Parks and Recreation Department. The Chippewa Valley Museum interprets the building and provides volunteer staff.