Frogtown has been home to more than a dozen public, parochial, and charter schools over the years. In the early days Frogtown children went to school close to home years ago and almost always walked to school.
Most of the first schools were too small for each grade to have its own classroom. Two or more classes shared a room, with one teacher to help the pupils.
In early schools desks were bolted to the floor, with inkwells for the older children to dip their pens into. (Sometimes a girl’s pigtail or ponytail might get dipped in the ink by a naughty child sitting behind her.)
Subjects taught were the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. Students might memorize and recite “pieces” in front of the classroom, or work on a blackboard. Schools offered rudimentary vocal music and art. Recess was outside on modest equipment or in an open space.
What about lunch? Students typically walked home and ate with their families. Some students would bring lunch, usually in a metal pail that had been originally a container for syrup or lard. Most schools didn’t offer hot lunch programs until the mid-20th century.
Schools were a centerpiece for neighborhoods, Schools hosted Christmas and end-of-year programs, concerts and plays. Carnivals were held to raise money for projects or to mark the end of the year.
At one point Frogtown had four grade schools – Jackson, Scheffer, Franklin and Drew; three Catholic grade schools – Saint Agnes, Saint Adalbert and Saint Vincent, and Lutheran schools affiliated with Saint Stephanus/Trinity and the Deutschen Evangelische Lutherischen St. Matthaeus Gemeind, or St. Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Children whose families were part of a congregation typically attended their church or parish school. Schools initially offered grades 1-6 or 1-8, although for much of its history Scheffer was a 1-7 school. Lack of space meant the eighth graders were sent to Jackson.
Throughout Frogtown’s history St. Agnes has been the only parochial high school.
Frogtown’s parochial schools had a strong ethnic flavor in their early days. Children at Saint Agnes spoke German, children at Saint Adalbert’s spoke Polish, and the Irish children at Saint Vincent spoke English. Many of the students at Saint Stephanus spoke German.
The neighborhood’s Catholic schools typically had nuns as teachers, although Saint Adalbert had lay teachers in its earliest years.
As time went on extra-curricular activities were added, including sports. The neighborhood’s three Catholic schools had lively sports rivalries, especially on the baseball diamond.