Group hopes to preserve one-room schoolhouse in Bern

'Once it's gone, it's gone'

BERN TWP., Pa. - It's been nearly a century since students attended class at the Epler Schoolhouse in Berks County. It was converted to a private residence in 1931, and has been vacant for many years. In fact, it was slated to be destroyed.

The Greater Berks Development Fund bought the property the former school sits on, and it plans to use that land for an industrial park, but it it turns out the quaint classroom might once again see some life.

"We felt we should step forward and try to find a way to preserve this," said Berks County Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt.

Barnhardt said at this point, the hope is to restore the one-room schoolhouse and move it across the road, which would place it on Reading Regional Airport property. Another option is to move it a couple miles down the road to the Berks County Heritage Center.

Barnhardt has been in contact with officials at the Greater Berks Development Fund, who, he said, have been cooperative with their efforts to keep the school intact.

"[We could] do interpretive services, open houses, educate people on how kids were educated at the turn of the century," Barnhardt said.

"I believe it's important because of the history," said April George, a co-owner of The Mint Leaf, a restored barn turned shop, right down the road from the schoolhouse.

George said she and her business partner were contacted about buying the building and moving it to their property, but for them, the moving costs were too high. Now, she's relieved to learn it may yet be saved.

"Once it's gone, it's gone," George said. "I'm really into history. I like to know where we came from."

Barndhardt said community support is needed to make the plan a reality. The fate of the schoolhouse will be the focus of a meeting on September 16 at the Berks County Heritage Center.

"As time goes on, there's going to be less of these assets for us to enjoy and understand what our history is, so I think this one is important," Barnhardt said.

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