Highland History

 

History of the School

The first school of the Third District was built on Porter Street before 1849. It was a two-room, white, wooden structure located where the lower playground is now. A third room was added in 1919.

 Miss Walsh & students circa 1896

In 1928, a new building was constructed. This was in front of the red school and so near that during blasting operations the children had to sit under their desks or walk down to Oak Grove Street. The appropriation for land and construction of this new building was $85,000.The contract was let to the Manchester Construction Company. The new school contained six classrooms, an auditorium and two rooms suitable for domestic science and manual training.

The school opened in 1929 with four teachers. Facilities were available for grades K through six. The attendance was larger than expected and a fifth teacher was added shortly. In 1930,a seventh grade teacher was employed. The first principal was Miss Frances Spellane.

The modern school building of the1930's is what we call the "old building" today. Miss Carrie Seymour was principal for nineteen years beginning in 1937. She also taught sixth grade. During that period there were facilities for grades one through six. Boys and girls went to the Barnard School (now part of Bennet Jr. High School) for grades seven and eight and then on to the High School for their final four years of public school. There were about 250 students in the school. 

In the very early days, all children walked to school except those that lived on Birch Mountain. They were driven to and from school in a privately owned station wagon. Children walking to school from Highland Street had to cross the pond located on the present Lutz Nature Center property. The bridge was so fragile that it was nicknamed "Old Rickety." Later, the town bus program was organized and has developed as we know it today.

There was no hot lunch program and most children walked home at noontime. Those that lived too far brought their lunches and purchased milk. They sat on long benches in the room that is now our library. During World War II, many mothers went to work so all children were allowed to eat at school. The teachers rotated lunchroom duty. Hot lunches were served starting in February, 1955. Mothers came in to monitor the lunchroom.

Older boys walked down to the Barnard School one day each week for manual art training. For a few years, cooking and sewing classes were held in the present Kindergarten room. Later when the five year olds took over this room, cooking was discontinued and sewing was moved to the auditorium. The girls worked hard at making aprons and bandannas, all by hand. The auditorium was located in what is now our cafeteria. This was the scene for school plays, programs and films.

During the war years, the children brought money to school to purchase war stamps. These were glued into little booklets. When enough were accumulated, they could be turned in for a War Bond. The children had good participation in this important effort and Governor Baldwin's wife came to the school to present an award. It was also possible for children to do some banking at school and on bank days they would bring in their bank books and money to deposit.

It was grassy where the parking lot is now located. We still have the upper and lower playgrounds as they did then and the "big rock" was a favorite spot. The area was not as cleared as it is now and for many years the children shared the woods with animals such as raccoons and skunks. Ragweed and poison ivy were always problems. The children were cautioned against going near the lily pond.

Field trips were a highlight of each year as they are today. Some of the places visited were the Library, Peabody Museum, Maple Sugar Farm, Trolley Museum, Sturbridge Village and Forest Park.

 
Miss March & her 6th grade class 1912

The classrooms were more rigid than they are now. The desks were lined up in rows and bolted to the floor. Each fall the custodian came around and adjusted the chair and desk height for each child. Each desk had its own ink well and children had to avoid putting too much ink in their pens because this resulted in messy blots on their papers. Occasionally a fly would drop into an inkwell and leave black marks on the ceiling. Students and teachers alike were delighted with the advent of the ball point pen. The school day began with opening exercises. The Lord's Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance were recited in each classroom. A prayer was also said before children ate their lunch.

Many of the subjects taught were the same as now. They called it arithmetic, we call it math. Spelling and grammar are now included in language. Many hours were spent practicing penmanship now known as handwriting. Social studies were unheard of. Instead, children studied geography, history and current events. Very little science was included in the elementary schools. Reading was, as it is now, a very important subject. Music and art teachers came in periodically. Physical education began a bit later.

The P.T.A. was first organized during the 1944-45 school year. Highland Park was the second school in Manchester to develop a P.T.A. Mrs. Eleanor Riker was the first president. Gas rationing was in effect then so members came to meetings in car pools. The school had virtually no office or audiovisual equipment. Miss Seymour requested assistance from the P.T.A. in acquiring these items. Throughout the years, the P.T.A. has provided the school with many things including a typewriter, ditto-machine, projector, screens, dark shades, record players, pictures for each classroom, athletic equipment, bicycle racks, rhythm band instruments, kiln, globes, showcases and later, science materials and books and library supplies. Some of the fundraising projects included Military Whist, "Make it Yourself Fair, "gourd raising, square dance, minstrel shows, rag collections, sweatshirt sales, bake sales, book fairs, basketball games, book cover sales and grinder sales.

The room mother plan was adopted in 1953 with the Fine Arts Program beginning the next year. The Library opened in 1958 and the first school fair was held in 1961.

After Miss Seymour's retirement in1956, Miss Harriet Atwood became teaching principal dividing her time between the Kindergarten and administrative duties. In 1962, she became supervising principal. 

Discussion had been going on for many years concerning the need for enlarging the school. Finally, in1964,construction began. It was difficult for the teachers and children to work around the noise and the construction equipment. The fifth grade class was temporarily moved to the Concordia Lutheran Church. Some children attended Bowers School for a while. It was well worth the inconvenience. Everyone was so pleased when the new school opened with its large gymnasium, auditorium combination with a stage. The new classrooms were big and bright. We now had an efficient office, a nurse's room and a teacher's lounge. On April17, 1966,a special program was held to dedicate the new wing.

 

 
Mrs. Olive Chambers & her 1st grade class 1966-1967

Miss Atwood remained as principal until her retirement in 1978. Dr. Gail Rowe succeeded her and remained principal until 1984 when Highland Park School was temporarily closed. During that time it was used by the Manchester Visiting Nurses, The Manchester Recreation Department, and the Porter Street School (an alternative high school).

Our school reopened with six grades in 1989 with Mrs. Diane Novak as principal. Since 1991 we have been a Kindergarten to Grade 5 School.

Highland Park School History as told to Marcia Memery
and updated by Benjamin Pilgrim, Grade 2.
Manchester Public Schools 45 North School St, Manchester, CT 06042

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