Penn Valley Courier Volume 1 No. 4 September 23, 2005
By Lori Woodhall
While Ready Springs is “officially” 49 years old, its roots go down deep. The Ready Springs Unified School District got its name from the two schools that were unionized on July 1, 1952: Indian Springs and Rough and Ready. The one-room Indian Springs schoolhouse still stands on Indian Springs Road, near the intersection of Spenceville Road (it was later a church and now a residence). Just down the road on Rough and Ready Highway was Rough and Ready School, which was destroyed in the 1994 Grauner Fire. Penn Valley resident Melvin Brown served on the Indian Springs school board for 12 years then another 10 on the unified board; his kids were third-generation Indian Springs School students.
Brown reflects on the process of establishing Ready Springs School: “It took three bond elections to get the bonds passed to approve it. So many of the old-timers thought, ‘If it was good enough for us, it’s good enough for the kids’. They couldn’t see the change.” Brown adds, “In the early 1950’s ranches were split into smaller lots and that brought in more families and children. We knew eventually there would be a lot of kids here.”
The bonds were passed on April 3, 1956. The four-room school was built and occupied in 1957 with about 50 students. Getting the work done required the generosity of many. The Blane family donated the septic system and access road. A neighbor used his dump truck and drag line to move gravel. “You couldn’t believe putting that road into that school in the middle of winter—mud, mud, mud,” Brown remembers. Neighbors put up fences.
Frances Gates, who sent three children through Ready Springs in the early years and served as librarian for 36 years, recalls, “There were no kindergarten classes that first year and just a small primary building. After sixth grade students transferred to other junior high schools.” On May 9, 1969, the old bell from Rough and Ready School was brought and dedicated to Ready Springs School.
Penn Valley resident Cindy Smith was part of the first class of kids who went all the way through Ready Springs, from kindergarten through eighth grade, graduating in 1974. “We had our graduation ceremony on the cement area where kids catch the buses now. There were about 30 of us,” she says. There were 298 enrolled at the school that year. Other things that were different, Smith remember, “Kids still got paddled back then. Not me. Some boys in our class did. It was a long wooden paddle with holes in it.” While she was there they built the multipurpose areas where the upper grades are now.
Ready Springs School celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1996; enrollment was up to 720 kids. A ceremony honoring the original five board members was held, where the district’s first administrator, Del Pharis, spoke of them, “They were of true pioneer stock. They saw what needed to happen.” In august 2004 current principal Susan Pastorini was hired as a full-time principal, replacing superintendent/principal Merrill Grand. That spring the decision had been made for the Ready Springs and Pleasant Valley school districts to share administrations. Ready Springs school board member Amanda Wilcox observes, “It allowed for more sharing of resources, more efficiency, better service and using taxpayers’ money more wisely.” In March of this year the school launched its P.A.C.E. program (promoting academics, community and exploration) to expand course offerings for 6-8thgraders and boosts its declining enrollment., Today the school has 273 students, 12 teachers and several part-time specialists.
The Rough and Ready school was established in March of 1868 and served five generations of Rough and Ready children. The school was closed in 1953, after being consolidated with another one room school. The new school, Ready Springs Elementary, located in nearby Penn Valley, serves approximately 350 children.
The old Rough and Ready Schoolhouse stood vacant until 1994 when it was consumed by the famous Trauner Fire that took out more than 500 acres of pine and oak woodland and more than 50 structures. A new family residence rose from the ashes having an exterior that replicates the original Schoolhouse. The owners conduct tours on special occasions as a special favor to the community.