Our schools are in the process of changing their footprints. The current building project should take about two years with most of the buildings having some work done. In a nutshell, the current Middle School is slated to become an elementary school, housing grades K-5. The ASK building will become our new Middle School housing grades 6-8, the grades in the High School will still be 9-12, and HBE will continue to house grades K -5. The administration offices will be moved from Thompson Street to the ASK complex. The current Middle School site will have an addition added to function as a gymnasium, auditorium, cafeteria, and administration offices in order to facilitate the change. Times they are a changing!
Curiosity got the best of me so I researched to see what changes the district has experienced over the years. The growth of our area as a result of the railroad’s success brought a call for modern educational facilities from the citizens. The Union Free School District was organized on February 7, 1862. Starting up quickly, E.W. Manning was selected as principal of the first free school which opened on April 15, 1862, with a staff of five instructors.
During this time, an attempt was made to provide higher education to local girls and boys with the establishment of the PJ Academy. This would eventually lead to the growth of our modern high school system. The location of the academy was the basement of the Presbyterian Church. It was recognized as a school by the State Education Department for Regents in 1867 and incorporated on January 9, 1868.
As the city expanded so did the need for more schools. The first Church St. school was built in 1867 and was located on the corner of Hammond St and Church St. It was used until a new building was opened in 1899 at the location on upper Church St. ( Church St. park area today)
More schools were established - Germantown (West End) area school was erected a year later - approx. 1900- but was short-lived as it was condemned in 1907. Five years later a second building was erected and was used as a school into the 1970s when it was torn down.
In 1871 there was a cry for another school to be built and the school board purchased what was a hotel and converted it. The price was $9,920 and when the renovation was complete, the Mountain House School was opened and able to accommodate 1,000 students. The school was used until 1924 and was eventually demolished.
The first high school was built and opened on April 19, 1889. It was located on the site of what was recently the Sullivan Ave School. Riverside school was built in 1890. In 1911 a new building, the Hudson Street School, ( located where the Lutheran Church is) was erected but it was deemed unsafe and condemned which lead to a lawsuit that the city won on 1/22/1914. The building was demolished in 1919. Two more schools were built, East Main Street and West End School in 1912. St Mary’s church opened its parochial school in 1915. So as you can see there was much change and building done over the years. During the time I attended school, there were five elementary schools in the city plus St. Mary’s parochial, all of which fed into the high school building (current Middle School) which at that time housed grades 7-12.
Disaster hit on 2/2/1918 when the High School on Sullivan Ave burned. The entire building had to be demolished. A search for a new location for a school started. The district wanted the new school to be much larger so the search for a suitable piece of land began. Citizens and the school board made a lot of suggestions as to the location of the new high school but no solution was forthcoming. While the debate over the high school continued a new elementary school was built on the Sullivan Ave site, which opened in 1919. The debate over the high school continued for quite a while and grew more intense when the Glennette Estate on East Main St was suggested. Residents who lived in the West End of town complained that it was too far for them to travel but eventually it was approved and the new high school was finished in 1924. The athletic field retained the Glennette name as the estate was originally named by its owner, Samuel Fowler, in honor of his wife.
As you can see there were many schools and many changes over the years. The changes didn’t end with the building of the new high school on East Main Street. There would be a new building complex built in the Town of Deerpark that would become the new High School and ASK Elementary school ( named for Anna Kuhl, a retired school principal) . These schools opened circa 1960. There was yet one other addition to the district with the building of HBE Elementary ( Hamilton Bi-Centennial School ) near Cuddebackville which opened circa 1976. Through the years all of the neighborhood elementary schools closed and most were demolished with the last one, Sullivan Ave. closing in the early 2000s.
The new building project should be completed in two years and will update the district's existing buildings to accommodate the new educational programs and requirements. Can’t wait to see the finished project! Times they are a changing!