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THE HISTORY OF LAKER SCHOOLS.
The residents of Huron County have been blessed with fertile farmland and wonderful natural resources. The founding fathers also placed a priority on the education of our children. Their values of education combined with a strong work ethic have provided communities with a solid base on which we can build the futures of our children.
The benefits of living in a rural area are reinforced in the educational programs we offer in our schools. The Laker family is made up of three strong communities that are working together to offer positive educational opportunities for our future leaders.
The focus is on student achievement for each individual student, earnestly believing teaching good citizenship, along with relevant curriculum choices, adds to the success of the entire community.
The following is a history of the early development of Pigeon, Bay Port and Elkton schools, including the rural districts surrounding the area from the 1870’s to the present system of consolidation.
PIGEON SCHOOL – THE PIGEON “PANTHERS”
In the 1870’s, a “shack” made of pine boards was moved from the discontinued Ora Labora Colony near Bay Port. It was set on the banks of the Pigeon River west of town and this became the first school building in the township. However, the area was gaining in population and soon outgrew the little shack, so a larger wooden building was erected. By 1894, a brick school was built within the village and on July 10, 1899, the Pigeon School was raised to the standards of a graded school.
The two wooden school buildings were moved to town and the larger one became the Texaco Oil Station. The new brick building cost $5,000 and had three rooms on the first floor and three on the second with a well- equipped laboratory. By 1916, there were 75 students enrolled. However, the ensuing joy that the “modem” brick building had brought to teachers and students came to an end when fire struck. The structure was completely destroyed, so classes were continued in the various churches for two years until the second, fireproof brick school was completed in 1918. It was said to be one of the best in the county and had cost $65,000.
The salaries in 1913 were $115 a month for superintendent, $50 for principal, and teachers averaged $45 to $48 per month. The school was in session for ten months of each year.
On December 4, 1930, the board gave their official permission for students to organize a school band.
By June 4, 1940, the board voted that the school year should be nine and a half months long.
The annexation of Hayes, Mud Creek and Chandler Schools in 1944 was the beginning of the consolidation era. Superintendent Carpenter told the voters, “It was legally shown that the voters wished to consolidate and the people of Pigeon heartily extended a welcoming hand to our farmer friends. We hope this is only a start to ward a more progressive and friendly community.”
In June 1945, the appraisal of the Pigeon School from inspectors of various state educational institutions gave the school “excellent ratings.”
In 1948, a new community playground with electric lighting for night sports events was constructed.
In 1950, the elementary school addition and vocational training structures were built at the Pigeon school site.
The 1956-1957 school year was the first time for Pigeon to host the annual Huron County Band Festival, with seven bands participating. From 1953 to 1958, the Pigeon School band received numerous first ratings at various festivals throughout the area.
The Superintendents of Pigeon were: B.M. Hamill (1907-1919); A.S. Sadler (1919-1925); Charles Pearson (1925-1933). In the fall of 1933, Hamill returned, only to pass away in January of 1935 and his wife filled his office for the rest of the school year.
After this came Oally W. Best (1935-1944); George Carpenter (1944-1951); Russell T. Tyndall (1951-1959); R.J. Davis (1960). At this time, the new era of Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker schools began.
An honorable mention is given to Principal Orvin Yordy, who served in that capacity from 1935-1942 and again from 1948-1960.
ELKTON SCHOOL – THE ELKTON “ELKS”
In 1887, land was purchased in Oliver Township and construction was begun on March 12, 1888, for the first school in Elkton. The site of the standing water tower on South Main Street was the location of this first school. Charles F. Nash was hired as superintendent in 1894 for a 10-month term at a salary of $451.
In 1902, a red brick school was erected at the north end of town. A library was organized this same year. By 1907, there were 12 grades housed here. In 1925, the University of Michigan placed the Elkton School on the accredited list.
In 1928, girls and boys glee clubs were formed. A band of 15 members was also organized that year and by 1938, it had grown to 42 members.
In 1930, Ivan Kurrle, formerly of the Chesaning Schools, was hired as the new superintendent. The principal was Earl Eidt.
A devastating fire destroyed the school building on Sunday evening of December 14, 1930. All records kept in a vault were destroyed.
In January 1931, a $60,000 bond issue was passed by the voters of District #1 Oliver Township to rebuild on the same site. In 1931, 15 students graduated from the Oliver Township School.
In the spring of 1942, an addition was added in back to house the agriculture classes and the shop classes for the high school. In 1944, the Weiss and Beadle Schools were moved to the school grounds to house two of the lower grades.
In 1945, the school board approved annexation of Chandler #3, Farver School. The district changed the name of Oliver Township Schools to Elkton Community School on September 4, 1945.
In 1946, Chandler #4 was approved for annexation. On October 21, 1948, a new house was erected on McKinley Street for school room purposes due to the overcrowded conditions of the third grade. On November 7, 1950 bids were opened for a second house on McKinley Street.
In July 1951, approval was given at the annual meeting of the Board of Education to start plans for a new elementary school. This building was completed and opened for students in 1955. It was designed to house lower elementary students. Many more annexations of districts followed. This list is not all inclusive. In 1953, Lake #2 Rock City School; in 1956, Chandler #1, Malpass School; in July 1956, Pinnebog School district; in July 1956, Chandler #2, Limerick School; in May 1957 Lake #1 Rush Lake.
On March 11, 1958, proceedings took place to consolidate with the Pigeon Community School District. The last graduating class, in 1960, honored 66 students.
Superintendents serving the Elkton Community Schools: Ivan
Kurrle (1930), Earl Eidt (1934-40), Terranee Hood (1941-47), Howard Eckel (1948-50), Edward Dykstra (1951-53) and Robert Davis (1954-60).
Bay Port School
Bay Port Elementary
BAY PORT SCHOOL – THE BAY PORT “CLIPPERS”
The community of Bay Port erected a K-12 school in 1912. The high school graduated its first class in 1923. The smallest class to graduate from Bay Port High School was in 1928 with one student. In 1934, a school gym was constructed and folks claimed “it’s the best floor in the county.” The largest class to graduate was in 1936 with 21 students. An estimated total of 384 students graduated from Bay Port High School from 1923-1960.
W.H. Wallace, son of W.H. Wallace, Sr., who was one of the founders of the Bay Port Stone Company, Fishing Company and the Mercantile Company, was very involved in the local educational program. He led the effort for school expansion, which resulted in an addition to Bay Port High School, a new gymnasium and an expanded athletic program.
The citizens of Bay Port and the students, faculty and administrators annually participated in what was known as the Bay Port Carnival. Each year, the residents of the community looked forward to an evening of fun and festivities, which was truly a community event. Bay Port resident Chuck Steele remembered attending “the carnival” as far back as 1937. The annual event continued for over five decades. Proceeds from the school carnival were used to fund supplies for the classroom teachers.
In 1954, a fire destroyed the K-12 school building, saving only the gym. The local Methodist and Latter Day Saints churches offered their basements as elementary class rooms. The gym, saved in the tragic fire, housed the high school students. A new elementary addition was built in the mid-1950s.
Bay Port agreed to annex with Pigeon and Elkton on July 12, 1958.
Records indicate the superintendents were the following: David Frye (1924-25); G.A. Jacquays (1930s); Joe Russell (1940s); K. Puffer (1949); Van DeVenter (1950s). These times are estimates of those who remember the history of Bay Port Schools.
Laker High School
Laker Middle School
EPBP LAKER SCHOOLS – THE LAKERS
As of the 1950s, a school consolidation plan was under consideration for a number of years. As aforementioned, Elkton and Bay Port agreed to annex with Pigeon in 1958.
The Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker High School graduated its first class in 1961.
In 1979, a new Middle school was completed, with all funds coming from a federal grant.
The newest building in the district is the nautical-themed Laker Elementary School, which was completed in August 2002. The construction of the Laker Elementary School allowed the school district to consolidate all elementary school programs. The voters of the Laker School district approved the bond issue for the new elementary on September 23, 2000. The cost of the new building was $10,298,000. Laker Elementary School has an area of 73,296 square feet. There are 33 classrooms available, which have a design capacity of 600 students. The school has facilities for daycare through fifth grade. The official groundbreaking took place on June 20, 2001. The first day of school in the new building was August 27, 2002.
In May 2010, with an 82 percent approval rate, district voters approved a three-year 1-mill sinking fund to pay for improvements to the secondary school, which includes the junior high and high school. The sinking fund brings in about $370,000 a year. This fund has paid for the refurbishing of the gymnasium, auditorium, high school entrance and office, outdoor athletic facilities, bathrooms and more.
In August 2012, Laker voters approved a one-half mill technology bond for three years, with 651 voting yes and 488 voting no. This millage will bring in a total of $545,000 over the course of three years. The technology bond will be used to upgrade the district’s aging technology, improve security across the campus, purchase iPads for K-12 students and help ensure high school students can take online college courses so they can earn college credits, possibly even an associate’s degree or technical certification. E-books can be purchased with the technology bond, as well, replacing textbooks. The secondary school science labs will be updated and a technology/robotics lab will be created at the elementary school with the bond funds.
The district hopes voters will continue to support the sinking fund and technology bond in future elections so that building and technology improvements can be ongoing, without having to use the general fund, which is mainly used for personnel costs, utilities and other costs of day-to-day operation.
As for Laker superintendents, James Matteson served from 1960-1973. After Matteson came Harry Brunet (1973 to 1989); Robert Drury (1989-2002); John Raab was superintendent from 2002-2006. In July 2006, the board hired Drury to be the interim superintendent, and in December 2006, the board hired former Laker teacher Bob Smith for superintendent.
Smith retired from the superintendent position in July 2012, and Mike Klosowski, chief financial officer, served as interim superintendent from August through mid-September. The board hired Smith back as superintendent; however, the re-hiring saved the district between $81,000 and $82,000, as the district isn’t paying for Smith’s health benefits and is not paying the same salary Smith had been receiving before retirement.
In 2015, Brian Keim was hired as the superintendent. He previously served in the high school principal position.
In May 2018, Laker voters passed the $19.1 million Next Generation Bond Project. This paid for many renovations, including the auditorium, gymnasium, locker rooms, a brand new 3,000 sq ft weight room, a new Ag area, and a completely revamped skilled trades facility called the Laker Innovation Center. This was part of Phase I, completed in November 2019. A Night of Thanks was conducted that month to thank the community for its support. Phase II of the bond project, the multi-sport athletic field house called the Laker Legacy Center, was completed in 2021, when a soft opening took place, along with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The Innovation Center has brought about new class offerings for middle school and high school students, such as Intro to Engineering, Design and Thinking, Mechatronics, and Geometry in Construction, among others. These classes began in the 2019-20 school year.
Speaking of the 2019-20 school year, the year ended in March 2020 due to the state shutting all schools down due to COVID-19. Classes were moved online to Google Classroom and Seesaw, among other applications. This was very last minute, but teachers did the best they could to keep learning going for the last months of the 2019-20 year and they did their best to keep connections to their students.
The 2020-21 school year was a full year, but it brought about a number of new challenges for all staff and students due to COVID-19. For one, teachers had students in person and online, which meant teachers needing to divide their time and resources between the two groups of students. For about 40-50 days of the school year, all students had to go virtual because of COVID-19 cases. Within these 40-50 days, all high school students were required to go virtual for about a month (mid-November to mid-December) due to a government order. Winter sports were put on hiatus for several weeks. Students and student athletes, along with all school staff, were required to wear masks all school year. Student athletes, for a good portion of that school year, had to have weekly testing for COVID. These were just some of the challenges incurred, but everyone worked together at Lakers to help ensure that students kept learning and growing. It wasn’t easy, but Lakers was able to have in-person classes for most of the school year (some schools in Michigan never did in-person classes) and the year ended on a high note (graduations, field trips for elementary students, award ceremonies, and more).
Technology continues to update throughout the Laker campus. In addition to iPads, students have access to Chromebooks to use during class. At the elementary, keyboards were added to each student’s iPad in the 2019-20 school year. Also, all teachers received microphones to use in their classroom. This updated technology was integral to making the 2020-21 school year as successful as possible.
More exciting changes are coming for the 2021-22 school year, including changing Laker Junior High to Laker Middle School, placing more of a focus on the unique needs of students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Scott Miklovic was selected as the middle school principal. Also for 2021-22, Lakers will begin a new high school program that allows students to take virtual classes and complete apprenticeships within the community. This program will be located off campus, but will still be a part of the Laker community. Caitlin Stone-Webber was hired as the director of this program, and an assistant also will be hired.
Stay tuned for more exciting developments from Laker Country!
Thank you to Bill Esch and local historical societies for providing the photos and historical information for Elkton, Pigeon and Bay Port schools.