FOLEY -- Anyone who attended school prior to the early 1970s likely remembers country schools.

Mary Ostby is the Executive Director of the Benton County Historical Society. She says the state started establishing school districts way back in 1849. Basically any student within a two-mile radius of a school building went to that school. By 1900 Benton County had 68 school districts and at its peak, there were 129 school districts in the county.

1958 map pf school districts
1958 map pf school districts

The county ran the rural school districts and had a county superintendent. However, in 1968 the Minnesota State Legislature decided it was time to do away with country schools.

There was a lot of backlash from the public because of how it was handled.  They basically said rural country schools don't exist and you need to consolidate for a K through 12 education.

Ostby says the country schools were given until 1971 to close their doors.

Many of those old schoolhouses were either abandoned or sold. Records weren't saved and many went with the teacher who was there when the building closed.

The Benton County Historical Society is looking for help from former students or teachers who might have more information about the different country schools throughout the county.

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