AUSTIN (KXAN) – When considering elementary school campuses, you might expect to find an art room, a playground or a cafeteria. Someone touring Eanes Elementary School in Austin’s West Lake neighborhood would find those elements, but they would also discover something else a little out of the ordinary: a cemetery. 

The school is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, and quite a bit of history comes with all of those active years of service. 

“In 1872, Robert Eanes came to Texas, and he was asked almost immediately to start a school as part of a new county school system,” said Ellen Balthazar, Eanes ISD School Board Member and history buff.

“William and Sophie Teague [then] gifted to the community two acres of land for a school house and a church house…148 years ago now, as part of the church, a cemetery was offered and established for the community [members] without a family cemetery or those travelers who were going West still in uncovered wagons in that time,” Balthazar explained. 

In the cemetery, there are markers for the bodies of at least 30 early Austinites, though Balthazar believes there are many more under the surface with nothing marking them. 

“Particularly for the folks who were traveling West and who died along the way,” she said. 

At first thought, one may consider the juxtaposition of a cemetery and an elementary school a little morbid, but Balthazar said its presence gives the children a unique learning opportunity.

“We have them visit [it], which for some is the first time they’ve ever visited a cemetery,” Balthazar said. “We talk to them about what a cemetery is, why we memorialize people and the respect that [it] deserves,” she said.

Lesley Ryan, the school principal, said the abundance of history present at the school – thought to be the oldest continuously running elementary school in the state – makes working there exceedingly special.

“The cemetery is not necessarily a place where we come for, you know, math instruction, but it is a space that really brings history to life outside of a textbook,” Ryan said. “It is such a gift that we have and a resource within our district.”

And for those wondering if the presence of the cemetery may bring with it some paranormal happenings, Ryan quelled those concerns… mostly.

“You’ll have to drive by at night [to see],” she joked.