When the final bell rang at Kisatchie School in East Natchitoches Parish back in 1962, “a way of life and a way of education had come to an end,” according to Rickey Robertson, a local historian who has personal ties to the school (his mother was educated there and later became an educator herself for over three decades).
The old Kisatchie School building, where students learned and teachers taught for 40 years, is still standing. I visit it once in a while and I never cease to have a sinking feeling that each time I see it standing could be the last time I see it standing. Don’t get me wrong… I have not heard it is in any danger of being torn down… It’s just a feeling a get.
On the outside, the old school actually looks pretty darned good for its age. I mean it is almost a hundred years old, and that’s pretty old for an abandoned school building and only very scattered volunteer help and donations to help keep it up.
The school building, along with the grounds and the gym which stands a few yards west of the school, were all donated several years ago by the Natchitoches Parish School Board to the Kisatchie Community Center Association. The group has helped keep the building alive, using volunteer labor and funds for window coverings placed over the old broken windows which had been contributing to the deterioration of the building.
With these window coverings, the building has kind of an artsy look that attracts attention from areas far and wide. If you look on popular photo sharing websites such as Flickr, you can find quite a few photos posted of Kisatchie School by people all over the country.
For a little more history on the school, check out this article written by Rickey Robertson for Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas:
It is an interesting article and tells of how the tight-knit rural community of Kisatchie joined together in force in the 1920s, citizens of all ages and incomes contributing however they could to make the homemade bricks with which to build the building.
“Thee school was the pride of the Kisatchie community,” Robertson writes.
In 1931, a stucco covering was added to the exterior of the two-story school building as the homemade bricks were beginning to deteriorate and break apart.
The school was closed in ’62 when it was consolidated with Provencal because with only 47 students in 12 grades at Kisatchie, the Natchitoches School Board determined it wasn’t feasible to continue funding the school.
“The building is from a bygone era, a piece of rural culture nad a remnant of days gone when having a high school education meant something,” Rickey Robertson so eloquently states.
Today, you can drive by the school and snap photos. It is located on Hwy. 118 (aka, the Louisiana Maneuvers Highway) just a hop, skip and jump east of La. Hwy. 117. Southwest of the City of Natchitoches and east of Florien in Sabine Parish. You can’t miss it if you happen to drive by it.
The building is locked up and sealed off to the public… I imagine for safety reasons. A few years ago, I went there and the front door was open so we took a look inside. It was really beautiful in an abandoned-building-where-many-happy-and-productive-memories-were-made kind of way. Back then, there were only a few window coverings and so the sunlight shined through the stately windows which were uncovered, casting striking shadows here and there and letting in enough light for us to look around. Classrooms were easily 800 square feet each, which blackboards across two sides of the rooms. It was a serious step back in time, to a time when education was simple but sufficient. It seemed truly charming, quite frankly.
I found photos of the inside of the school from others who had visited to the building and shared their pictures online… and the more recent ones show pretty rapid deterioration of the hardwood floors inside. My suggestion, however unsolicited, would be for visitors to enjoy the outside of the building, but as far as the inside… be kind to yourselves safety-wise and be kind to the pro-bono group who owns the school by respecting their wishes– displayed by nails, padlocks and chains– to stay out of the building.