In and Around Hannibal: Schools in Hannibal

by Rita Hooper

There’s an old adage that if you don’t know what to write about – just keep writing and it will come. That’s sort of my predicament tonight except I want to share some info provided me my Mary Pawlenko Phillips on when she was a student at North Hannibal School. However, I know many of my readers will say, “Huh, never heard of North Hannibal School,” so I think it best if I do a little background work.

This may just turn into a series on schools of Hannibal.Once again, I’m indebted to the Hannibal Historical Society’s Hannibal History in “pictures and prose,” as compiled by Lowell Newvine for much of my information.

Hannibal Central Schools became centralized into one district in 1949 by a vote of 767 to 318. This new district encompassed approximately 90 square miles and included the Town of Hannibal and portions of the towns of Oswego, Granby and Sterling. The student body that first year was about 670 with teachers and staff numbering 38.

Let me imagine the discussions around the kitchen tables and at the local hangout back then: “Why we’ve been running this school for over a 100 years and we dun just fine.” “All those kids will have to be bussed – whose going to pay for all those busses?” “But the children will have more options in a bigger school – like sports and music.” “The kids will have a more uniform education – one that meets higher standards…following the guidelines of the NYS Board of Regents.” “While it will cost more in the beginning, it will be more economical in the long run.” “The children learn just fine, because all the students are in the same room. Younger students have the advantage of also listening to the lessons taught to their older peers. In a similar manner, the upper level students could coach their younger counterparts.”

By the way, the first school session was held in Hannibal Center in 1810. Laura Kent was the first teacher, a daughter of one of Hannibal’s earliest families having moved here from Vermont. Just think Mayor Kent could have been a Green Mountain Boy!

Before centralization, there were 15 school houses in the area. They were one-room structures most of them made of wood. Student desks would be in rows and the building was heated by a pot-bellied stove in the middle of the room. Those near the stove roasted and those far from it shivered. Usually one teacher taught all the children in grades 1-8 and they also did the custodial work.

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