— Part 3 of 5 —
After World War II, the State government wanted to alter the organization of the schools throughout the state. They wanted the one-room schools to consolidate with the nearby school district which had an existing high school. To facilitate this change, the legislature approved bills to cover the cost of buses and about 90% of the operational cost of the transportation systems.
The original buses were painted red, white, and blue. Starting in the mid-1950s the replacement buses converted to the now standard yellowish color.
Each one-room school district had to vote to approve the consolidation. The last of the one-room schools consolidated with the Almont school district by the mid-1960s.
Consolidation with the one-room school districts required the construction of additional classrooms to house the students. Additionally, beginning in 1952 the effect of the post-war “Baby Boom” babies required additional classrooms. To a lesser extent, migrants added to the student count. One of my classmates in kindergarten had just moved from Belgium a few weeks before school started.
In 1949, the Almont Board of Education constructed the “Ag building” just north of the school. This building consisted of one classroom and a high ceiling instruction bay where the farm boys would be instructed on how to maintain and repair their farm machinery. Prior to World War II, most farms still relied on “horse-power”. Post-World War II, the farms became more mechanically oriented and education to maintain the equipment was needed.
In 1952, the community passed a bond issue to borrow money to construct an addition to the school building. The “1952” building was constructed on the south side of the existing building and the hallway ran east-west. The addition consisted of the superintendent’s complex (superintendent’s office, secretary’s office and a storage room including a vault and the school store), a small natural gas furnace room, teacher’s workroom, a set of restrooms, and six classrooms.
Anticipating the need for additional classroom construction, the baseball field and football field were moved to property on the west side of Church Street, slightly north of the intersection with Sullivan Street.
Board of Education president Leon T. Bishop constructed a small cement block building to be used as the school’s kindergarten classroom until the next addition to the building could be completed. It was located on the east side of Church Street across from the baseball field. It ceased being used in November 1955.
In 1955, the community again passed a bond issue to fund the construction of additional classrooms. The “1955” addition was done in two parts. Coming off the west end of the “1952” addition was an “L” shaped structure. The bottom of the “L” was the elementary principal’s complex consisting of the principal’s office, the secretary’s office, a teacher’s lounge, and a storage room. This portion of the building ran east-west. The upright of the “L” ran north to access the nine new classrooms and a set of restrooms. Additionally, on the north end of the “1928” building was constructed a new entry lobby (the band lobby), a large natural gas powered furnace room (replaced the coal fired boilers which required constant monitoring), a new band room, and the wood working shop.
Also in 1955, a community group funded the construction of improvements to the baseball/football fields. Seating for both fields was added, a concession stand was constructed, and lights were added. Private citizens donated the field’s public address system.
In 1860, Almont Township’s population reached 2,000 people. Because the forests had been logged off in Almont and all the land converted to farm land, the township’s populations stagnated at 2,000. In 1950, the township’s population was still 2,000. By 1960, the township’s population had grown by about 10% to 2,200. Some of this growth was the result of the “Baby Boom” but it was also the result of more people moving into the township than were leaving. Some of the growth was the result of the construction of General Motor’s Tech Center. For the first time in the township’s history homes were being constructed on the country roads and they were not associated with any farm. My parent’s home was one of the first of these.
The State Fire Marshall performed an inspection of the school building in late 1964 or early 1965. The results were a number of serious conditions that did not meet current State fire regulations. Of particular concern were conditions in the kitchen and with the auditorium/gymnasium facility. Renovations to correct these problems were not financially realistic. These areas could still be repurposed for other uses, but new facilities need to be constructed to create a new kitchen and gymnasium.
The community passed a bond issue to fund the construction of a new cafeteria/kitchen complex, gymnasium, additional classrooms and rest rooms, and counselor’s office and nurse’s office. The 1960s saw the population of Almont Township grow substantially–in part from the “Baby Boom” but also from a large influx of new residents. By the 1970 U. S. Census, Almont’s population increased by nearly 28%. The additional classrooms were needed to cover the forecasted student increase through 1970.
The “1965” construction was in two parts. Three additional classrooms were built on the north end of the “1955” elementary addition. The “Ag Building” was demolished and construction was done on the north end of the “1955” high school addition. Constructed was the cafeteria/kitchen complex which included a teacher’s lunchroom, and additional restrooms; the gymnasium with its locker rooms and storage rooms; a replacement Ag complex; the Art room; two classrooms; the counselor’s office; and nurses office.
Because the bid costs of the project came in over the estimates, two or three planned classroom were not constructed and the bleachers for the east side of the gymnasium were not ordered. The elimination of these classrooms meant the school’s capacity would not meet the estimated student growth used to design the project.
The first use of the new facilities was the graduation ceremony for the Class of 1967. The addition opened for the 1967-1968 school year.
Copies of the Almont Historical Society’s various books can be purchased by contacting Jim Wade at 810-796-3355 or jrwade49@ gmail.com or stopping by the museum on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.