— Part 4 of 5 —
When school opened in the late summer of 1967, students got to experience the new additions to the building. The basketball players were particularly impressed by the new gymnasium. They now got to perform on a 1960s regulation court – 84 feet instead of the 70 feet of the 1920s gymnasium. Over time, as the educational needs of the students change, the structure of a school building must also change to meet those needs.
The school district was already experiencing capacity problems. The costs to construct the 1965 addition came in higher than the estimates and two or three classrooms were not built. Additionally, enrollment exceeded the 1965 estimates. Before the start of the school year, two portable classes had been added but fifth through seventh grades still had 39 to 46 students in each room.
In October 1969, the voters approved a Building & Site millage to purchase a six classroom modular/portable classroom building. The building was placed on the playground’s baseball fields to the west of the 1955 addition in March 1970.
In November 1969, the Board of Education formed a Steering Committee to research the needs of the students and determine how to solve the school’s overcrowding.
In January 1971, due to overcrowding, three classrooms were located at the First Congregational Church and one at the library. In eight years the school’s enrollment had increased by nearly 49%.
In April 1973, the Community approved a Building & Site millage to purchase four additional modular/portable classrooms to be added to the existing units. The resulting structure became known as the “White House”. While constructing the addition, a heavy snow fall caused the roof to collapse.
In December of 1973, a “Steering Committee” was created to develop a proposal for a new “secondary school” – high school – renovate the existing building to an elementary and buy property for future expansion. In September 1974, the Board of Education requested approval of a bond issue to fund the construction of a new high school. The bond issue was not approved.
In April of 1976, for a second time, the Board of Education requested approval of a bond issue to fund the construction of a new high school. Again, the bond issue was not approved.
Being short of classrooms and not having the funds to rent or buy portables, the Board of Education was forced to schedule split sessions for the 1976-77 school year. High school students were to attend from 7:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., middle school students to attend from 12:32 to 5:30 p.m., and elementary students to attend from 8:35 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. To make this work, four classrooms were created in the 1927 gymnasium. Split sessions prompted a number of parents to move out of the district.
The 1977-78 school year continued the split sessions with the middle school students being released at 4:46 p.m.
In June 1978, the Board proposed a bond issue to fund a new elementary school and major renovations to the existing buildings. The bond issue was not approved. Split sessions were continued for the 1978-1979 school year. Schedule: High school 6:50 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.; Middle school 11:29 a.m. to 4:40 p.m.; and Elementary 8:35 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. Even though the school had been on split sessions for three years, opponents of the bond issue claimed there was no need for additional classrooms.
Beginning in April 1979, the Almont and Dryden Boards of Education began discussion to merge the two districts. Based on public sentiment, the Board voted to end the merger talks in June.
In June 1979, the Board proposed a bond issue to fund a new elementary school. The 1979-80 school year again was on a split schedule. At the September 1979 election, the bond proposal was defeated.
For the fifth year, classes for the 1980-81 school year were on split sessions. The following year (1981-82) split sessions continued.
With declines in enrollment and the creation of additional classrooms spaces in non-traditional areas (including converting a boy’s bathroom into a Special Education classroom) the school got off of split session for the 1982-1983 school year.
Class sizes were still too large and the buildings lacked the appropriate specialized classroom spaces – library, science labs, a second gymnasium to facilitate the practices of the girls sports teams among other needs – of a 1980s school.
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.