History of Grundy Center Schools, 1839-1994

The earliest record of a school in Grundy Center dates back to the summer of 1859, when Miss Sophia Severance taught a handful of youngsters in a log cabin built in 1855 by Thomas G. Copp. Appropriate enough, this log cabin was the very first building in town. It was located on the east side of Fourth Street and just north of Main Street, near the Bethany Presbyterian Church. A winter term of school the same year was taught by David Washburn in another building Mr. Copp constructed, which later was to be called the "Eagle House."

The first school building was erected by Mr. Washburn in 1860 on the southeast corner of Block 24, now a vacant lot adjoining Brown Heating & Cooling. It was a one-room structure, made of lumber hauled in from Jesup, with a dirt floor. Miss Severance taught the first term in this building in the summer of 1860. She was followed by Hefer Chaffee, Miss Minerva Baker and Andrew Meyer.

In the year 1873 or 1874, a new frame schoolhouse was built in the block where the present Lower Elementary Building is located. This was a two-room structure, with the lumber being brought in by wagon from Cedar Falls.

Four or five year later, in order to meet the demands of the growing community (Grundy Center had a population of 437 when incorporated in April, 1877) a two-room addition was built on the north end of the schoolhouse. But still another larger school was needed, so in 1884, a two-story brick building was constructed (called the Lincoln Building) with four rooms in the upper story and four on the ground floor.

Today's modern school system began in the fall of 1888 when W. D. Wells became superintendent, and under his management, the school was graded and a three-year high school organized. The first class was graduated in 1891. Members of the class were Millie and Lillie Graham, W. G. Kerr, Arthur Merritt, Nora Person, A. Estella Paddock, Grace Sprague, Fred Sargent and Harold Willoughby.

In 1897, a $10,000 brick building was erected to meet the continuing needs of the school. This was the old McKinley Building, better known as the Grundy College Building, located in the southeast part of town. It was first used as a high school and later for all grades above the fourth.

To meet the further needs of the growing school, the present Lower Elementary Building was constructed in 1916 at a cost of $100,000 on the site of the Lincoln School. The McKinley Building was sold to the Christian Reformed Church denomination for use as a junior college.

In 1939, the present Upper Elementary Building was completed and used at the time as a Senior High School Building. Grundy Center School made its largest growth in the post-World War II era under the direction of Superintendent Alfred B. Ogland. Superintendent Ogland piloted the district through a major school reorganization in 1953-54 culminating in a vote on March 24, 1954, with 22 districts voting to merge with the Independent School District of Grundy Center. The Independent District consisted of four square miles. The new Grundy Center Community School district officially came into existence on July 1, 1954, with an area of 75 square miles. From that date until the mid-1960's, there continued to be other rural districts joining the total area served by the Grundy Center School.

On December 2, 1955, the citizens of the newly reorganized district voted a $550,000 bond issue for the construction and equipping of a new Senior High School. Construction was started during the summer of 1956, and the new modern up-to-date high school containing 14 classrooms, a large library, gymnasium, cafeteria, kitchen, locker rooms, administrative office, and storage areas was occupied in the fall of 1957 and officially dedicated on November 17, 1957.

With the addition of the rural areas, the school transportation system was extensively expanded from four bus routes in 1947-48 to nine routes in 1954-55 plus the use of a station wagon for kindergarten. The curriculum and the extra-curricular activities, including music and athletics, were developed and expanded during this period in keeping abreast with the new trends in education.

Superintendent Dale C. Mulford commenced his duties in 1962 and directed the school through a period of rapid enrollment growth and expanded curriculum offerings and staff growth during the 60's. Enrollment mushroomed to 1,121 students in 1968, in contrast to 443 in 1947. In addition, bond issues, new building construction, building renovations, participation in various federal and state programs, and compliance with a number of school legislative mandates required competent leadership and direction. In the 70's, the school experienced the reversal of the rapid growth of the previous 10 years. However, Superintendent Mulford successfully managed the school during a period of declining enrollments, state mandated budget controls, staff and curriculum offering reductions and the advent of collective bargaining by public employees.

Additional property for expansion of the high school site was acquired during 1969-70. An area slightly larger than two city blocks adjoining the high school site west of 12th Street was purchased for a total cost of $24,138. A new central administration building was built on the site, and physical education, athletic and parking areas have since been developed there.

The new Junior-Senior High addition was completed and put into use in August of 1971. The new addition included an auditorium, commons and a large, well-equipped instructional materials center. The open-space concept and flexibility of teaching spaces are major features of the building design.

Recognition by the North Central Association is the best evidence a school can offer of quality and success. It represents high scholastic standards, maintenance of adequate equipment, and excellent caliber of instruction. Grundy Center has retained its membership in the North Central Association for 54 consecutive years.

Grundy Center Schools have come a long way from the one-room log schoolhouse. The three R's have blossomed into courses of study designed to prepare every student for a successful future. The measure of success of any school system is not the number of brilliant students or leaders it has produced, although the Grundy Center School has had its share of both. Rather, it is the kind of service it gives to the community which has created it.

Since the first class received its diplomas in 1891, hundreds of other young men and women have graduated from Grundy Center High School. A good proportion of them have remained in the community to farm its land, operate its banks, businesses and professions, and carry on the affairs of the City. Judged by its product, the years invested in education effort in Grundy Center have paid high dividends.

Below is a list of the 17 Grundy Center School Superintendents and the years they served:

1888-1896 - W. D. Wells, 8 years
1896-1897 - J. P. Dodds, 1
1897-1904 - J. E. Stout, 7
1904-1909 - C. L. Love, 5
1909-1911 - E. L. Ferrier, 2
1911-1912 - W. H. Clark, 1
1912-1914 - H. C. Moeller, 2
1914-1918 - H. Doorman, 4
1918-1920 - Clyde Workman, 2
1920-1921 - C. Banghart, 1
1921-1931 - T. J. Tormey, 10
1931-1936 - J. L. Larson, 5
1936-1947 - V. T. Hancock, 11
1947-1960 - A. B. Ogland, 13
1960-1962 - Walter Fredrick, Jr., 2
1962-1990 - Dale C. Mulford, 28
1990-Present - Robert Crouse

--Written by T. J. Heronimus (Class of 1955)

Transcribed from Grundy Center High School Alumni Directory 1891-1994