GRANT SCHOOL As we turn back through the pages of school history we find evidence that the problem of providing adequate housing for the ever growing school population is not one unique to the present day school administration. In fact, this problem was responsible for the establishment of the North School, and it has been faced numerous times since the building of that school in 1866.
The Civil War had scarcely ended when the Board of Directors of District 24 took action on this matter of urgency facing the people of Salem. A quotation from the board minutes of March 23, 1866, states: The attention of the friends of education is respectfully called to the subject of the great want of accommodations for schools in the way of suitable buildings. The house at present occupied (Centre School) has been crowded to excess during the past year. Accommodations at least equal to those already existing are imperatively demanded if we would have our district school meet the just expectations of its friends and the wants of the youth of the city. We can do so only by providing suitable school rooms so that all who de sire to attend may be accommodated.
On motion this report was adopted: Notice having been given in the advertisement calling the meeting that a tax would be levied for the purpose of raising funds to build additional school houses, it is resolved that a tax of 5 mills on each and every dollar ‘s worth in the school district, not exempt by law from taxation, be levied for the purpose of raising funds to be expended under the direction of the school district in the erection of two or more school houses, one to be erected in North Salem, and one South of South Mill Creek. School Board Minutes of April 1st, 1867, declare that two “handsome” and “commodius” houses have been erected in the district, one in North Salem, and the other in the southern suburbs of the city. These houses were “fitted up in good style”, and furnished with new and improved seats, together with outbuildings. The total expense of these houses, including the cost of the ground, fitting up the interior, wells, etc. amounted to near $4, 500. 00. The “North School”, as it came to be known, was the forerunner of the present Grant School, and it was built on approximately the same site as the present building.
Mr. D. B. Cooley, an old timer who attended North School during the 1870’s recalls that this house was a one story frame structure with the length of the building extending north and south along Cottage street. Behind the school was a woodshed, and beyond the woodshed two outbuildings, one for girls and one for boys, with a high board fence between them. All grades were contained within the large room. Pupils sat in pairs at 47 attended to. A very perceptible moral growth has been the result.
The children have been taught the duty of love and respect to parents, teachers, and friends. Obedience to law has been developed and strengthened. Truthful statements in well chosen words have been insisted upon. Profane language has become almost unknown. Pupils are polite and respectful to each other and their teachers. A due regard to the rights of public and private property has been taught in connection with the necessary care of the school- houses and grounds. These are kept scrupulously neat and clean. An excellent impression is thus made upon the pupils. Seeing everything kept in such good order about them, they learn habits of neatness and order. They like it too, and appreciate the public spirit which makes such things possible. It has become an accepted f act that the better the school surroundings and accommodations are, the better will the pupils be, and more efficient in the school.
The aim has been to make good citizens, and to prepare the boys and girls for lives of active and intelligent usefulness. The aim we know is good, The means employed to reach it are the best that could be obtained, and the results are very gratifying. And on the subject of discipline: The schools are mainly in fine running order. System is introduced wherever possible to prevent confusion and lighten labor. The order on the school grounds and in the rooms is good. Whispering has been reduced to the least possible minimum.
Children love an orderly and well managed school, and respect the teacher who can secure it. They feel that it is for their good. Our pupils are diligent and attentive, and very much interested in their work. Truancy is almost unknown. Instead of trying to keep away from school the pupils love to attend and hate to be absent a day. Tardiness also, is less frequent than formerly. Regularity and promptness of attendance are indispensable to progress in study. Parents are recognizing this and frequently assist the teachers in regulating attendance. The strict rules upon this subject, requiring written excuses from parents and guardians in all cases of absence and tardiness, stating the reasons for the same, and defining valid excuses, are producing excellent effect.
The Board of Directors Annual Report of March 3, 1890 again mentions the rapid growth in school population and resulting need for additional school facilities. We quote from that report: ‘ The rooms in all the buildings in the district are overcrowded and it is necessary to have four more school rooms for another year, and we should recommend the building of an 8 room school in North Salem, 4 rooms to be finished and furnished for the coming year.
Plans called for an “unpretentious” structure 2 stories in height and containing 8 rooms. Basic cost of the building was to be $10, 500. 00, but furniture, furnaces, plans and supervision raised the price for the district to $13, 278, 59. Seating capacity was given as ample for 200 pupils. The construction job was delegated to Craven, contractor. The Board of Directors Report of March 2nd, 1891, makes this comment: According to instructions we have erected a new eight room building in North Salem, with money procured by sale of the bonds ordered by the district. Without Meshing to speak in our own praise, or to detract from the labors or judgment of other directors, we are free to say that no better school building, for the money expended, can be found in Oregon, and it affords us pleasure to know that so far as we have been able to ascertain public sentiment, it is one of unreserved approval.
No better lighted or convenient school rooms can be found anywhere. The heating and Ventilation are equally good, and the structure has no expensive part exposed to the elements to add expenses year after year for repairs, besides being built for a sum which precluded the possibility of any wasteful expenditure of the money of the district. In 1891 the staff of the new North School included Profess or J. A. Sellwood, Principal, A. W. Lang, Mrs. M. V. Rork, and Mrs. Mattie Meyer. Pupils registered numbered 194. This structure served the community for 64 years.
In February, 1908, a resolution was presented to the Board of District Z4 to change the name of the North School to Grant School. In the March meeting the resolution was adopted and the building has since been known as Grant School. From 1915 to 1924 it housed a junior high school unit which included students from Cher awa. This organization was discontinued with the opening of Parrish Junior High School. Because enrollments outgrew the building, because the building was the type of structure on which additions could not be made, and for safety reasons, a new single story structure was authorized by the Board of District 24CJ in 1954.
At this time the Grant building was the oldest operative school in Salem. The original plan was to use the old structure while the new one was being built around it, but pupil safety became a larger factor than was first anticipated, so school was dismissed one week early and the old building was razed to permit the construction of the present Grant School. When it came time for school to resume in the fall two classes of children were housed in the Garfield School, two in the Highland School, one in a portable classroom, and one class in each of 3 homes purchased by the district on the building site. The new Grant School was completed in the spring of 1955, and was dedicated April 14 of that year. The new building is functionally designed for all those who will use it, pupils, teachers, cooks, custodian, and community groups. It contains II classrooms, a library, a multi,-purpose room, a health room, combined faculty and special education room, a kitchen for serving two buildings, and an office suite. The building is exceptionally fire resistant. The total contract cost of the structure was $277,338.00.
Grant School staff at the time of the dedication of the new building include the following: First Grade Mrs. Neva Mundinger and Miss Bernice Singree Second.Grade – Mrs. Helen McLeod Third Grade at Mrs. Clare Laurance and Mrs. Gail Kirnmell Fourth Grade at Miss Elizabeth Dugan Fifth Grade 3 Mrs. Eleanor Pierson Sixth Grade _Mrs. Zola Schwiesow Secretary – Mrs. Ada Bedsaul Custodian Mr. Albert Williams Cook Mrs. Ethel Marsh Principal 4 Mrs. May Smith
Principals who have served in the building since 1866 include the following: Mr. Royal, Mr. L. Thompson, Mr. George Meacham, Mr. Howard Morris, Mr. S. A. Randle, G. A. Peebles, J. S. Graham, Mr. J. A. Selwood, Mr. E. A. Miller, Miss Gladys Tipton, Mrs. May Smith, Mr. Alvin Hoerauf, and Mr. Howard Bay, present principal.
From: Progress Report: 100 years of Education in Marion County