by Debbie Coleman-Topi
Former students and community activists are working to preserve a piece of African American history in Parkville.
The non-profit group is restoring a one-room school house in Parkville that was created to educate the children of freed slaves.
The Parkville School District constructed the tiny Banneker School at 31 W. Eighth Street, in 1885 as a means of fulfilling state-mandated school segregation.
The building, the first of two Banneker schools in the area, was saved from the wrecking ball in 1988 by Lucille S. Douglas, a teacher who joined with others to preserve the building for use as a future museum. Douglas died in 2004.
The group has since grown and formed a non-profit, the Banneker School Foundation and Historic Site and includes the following Legacy partners: the city of Parkville, Park University, Platte County, the Park Hill School Board and the Platte County Historic and Genealogical Society.
Renovations to the structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are ongoing but total about $53,000 and are intended to return the building to structural integrity, said Kiki Fane, vice chair of the Banneker School Foundation and Historical Site.
The improvements include preparations for a new split shake roof, tuck-pointing of exterior brick walls and interior stone foundation walls, new floor joist system and sub flooring.
Carla Barksdale, chair of the foundation, said the group is excited by the progress.
"We couldn't be happier," she said. "We have a local craftsman who cares as much about the project as we do," she said of Grant Shifflett of GS Structural, who has restored many area buildings.
The original Banneker was closed in 1902 when enrollment soared to 80 students, far more than the building's capacity. From 1903 until 1959, the second school educated black students living in the community.
Daisy Young was among many area black children who attended the second Banneker School, which was across from the Washington Chapel C.M.E. Church. That building has since been converted to a private residence.
Young, who today lives in Grandview, was anxious back then to join her brothers and sisters who were already attending the school. She explained that initial enrollment wasn't based on age, but a student's desire to learn. Therefore, she began attending the first grade at the age of four, hoping to learn reading, writing and arithmetic.
But the experience also provided a surprising introduction to a career as a teacher. Because there was only one teacher to educate the dozens of students at both Banneker schools, the lone teacher was forced to rely on older students to help teach the younger ones. That experience launched Young into a career as a school teacher.
Young has fond memories of not only the school, but, also, the influence of Douglas, her teacher.
"Mrs. D was the kind of teacher that would really stretch you," Young said, adding that her teacher also helped with 4-H projects and was active working with children in church events and activities, as well. "She had a unique way with music, plays, speech and drama," Young said.
"Mrs. Douglas stayed in my life until she passed away," Young said.
An annual fundraiser breakfast and program is scheduled for 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 29 at the Park University Park Distance Learning Center, 8700 N.W. River Park Dr., Parkville.
Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at the door. Tables are available for $1,000 for 10 people and include recognition.
To order tickets in advance by check, email Judy Shafé at email@example.com or use the following link to order using a credit card: http://banneker2016breakfast.eventbrite.com, or search Banneker at eventbrite.com