In a typical year, the Cato Historical Preservation Association (CHPA) would host tours of hundreds of students from area school districts for its annual Cato Days celebration in the unincorporated community of Cato, located about 2 miles west of Highway 69 at the northern edge of Crawford County and home to the Cato School — one of the county’s oldest buildings.

Last year marked a particularly significant milestone for the Cato School — which has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 2006 — as it turned 150 years old. In 2020, however, as with so many other things, the coronavirus pandemic forced the CHPA to change its plans for Cato Days.

But while the CHPA was unable to host student tours this year, there has still been some good news for the Historical Preservation Assocation. It was recently awarded two grants, one from the Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative and another from the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas, which together will pay for necessary maintenance work on the Cato School, according to CHPA Member Marilyn Flagg.

Flagg added that the Historical Preservation Association is already making plans to host student tours again next year, assuming restrictions in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 are eased enough to allow it to do so.

“As it stands now, Cato is hoping to host the children in 2021 over a period of two days so the students who would have come this year won’t have to miss out,” Flagg said in a press release.

Cato Days generally features historical lectures, reenactments, food and music from the latter half of the 19th century, when Cato was an active settlement predating the official establishment of both Crawford County and the State of Kansas. The town was founded in 1854, a decade and a half before the construction of its one room schoolhouse that remains a centerpiece of the Cato Days tours.

The Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas grant that will help pay for maintenance work on the school was a “Future Fund Giving Circle” grant for $1,125 and the Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative grant was a $1,000 “Concern for Community” grant, Flagg said. Both grant awards were announced in late October.