Mcfarland primary school marks its end, new beginning – the mcfarland thistle local ortega y gasset


Once the old grade school is torn down and debris removed, the site will be transformed into a parking lot that will serve the new school, which will be named Conrad Elvehjem Primary School. This will mark the first time in 100 years there will not be a school building at the very top of Sure Street. School changes with the times

The original school built on this site opened in the fall of 1918. The three-story school offered a curriculum for first through ninth grades (later 10th). There were three classrooms in the school, one for first through third, another for fourth through sixth, and the third classroom for seventh through ninth grades.

When students arrived for the first day of class in 1918, they were happy to learn the new school had running water, indoor toilets and a furnace – things many students didn’t have in their homes. Electricity was added to the school in 1922.

During the 1920s and into the 1930s, the annual school enrollment was typically fewer than 100 students. The school population gradually grew during the first 20 years, but the addition of students from Edwards Park in 1937 made overcrowding a major problem.

The growth in enrollment prompted the need for a school addition in 1939. Much of the cost for the addition was paid for through a federal Public Works Administration grant. The addition, extending all three stories of the school on the south side, included two classrooms and a small gymnasium.

The post World War II years brought more students into the school as a result of the baby boom and the consolidation of one-room rural schools in the McFarland area. This growth led to a series of additions to the school throughout the 1950s.

Beginning in 1952, a one-floor addition in the front of the school included two classrooms, bathrooms and an extended kitchen. In 1954, a second floor was built above the 1952 addition, creating three new classrooms. Two more classrooms were added to the south end of the building in 1956, along with a large gymnasium and stage. The school now had 13 classrooms and 373 students.

In spite of the multiple building projects throughout the 1950s, the grade school was still feeling the squeeze of overcrowding. In 1960, the north wing of the school was constructed at a cost of $250,000. The addition included eight classrooms for kindergarten through second grade, a principal’s office and a spacious library.

The 1962 grade school enrollment was 496. More space was created that year when the seventh and eighth grades moved to the newly constructed junior high/high school. Enrollment continued to rise, reaching 558 students in 1964. Plans were soon underway for the construction of another school building. In 1968, the Conrad Elvehjem school opened to the north of the old grade school, housing fourth, fifth and sixth grades.

In 1978, the portions of the grade school built in 1918 and 1939 were torn down. The north wing, built in 1960, was expanded to the south, which included additional classrooms and a new cafeteria. That renovation was completed in 1979 and cost $650,000. A final grade school renovation was completed in 2001. School created common bonds

The thousands of students passing through the school doors since 1918 at the top of Sure Street share memories of teachers and classmates, making new friends, first day jitters and fun on the playground. The old red brick school was the place they all learned to read and write; it was the setting for the annual school picnic, school plays, first crushes, doughnuts with dad, spelling bees, marble tournaments, and the greatly anticipated Fall Festival.

It was the place where you could proudly “show and tell,” enjoy the Johnson farm right next door, clean erasers against the brick wall, peer out the large and shiny windows, and climb the poles or ropes all the way to the top of the very high ceiling in gym class.

The old grade school was almost magical on the evening of the music program, all the classrooms were lit up in the dark night as you walked up Sure Street. The building was abuzz with excitement as students waited for their class to go on stage to perform before a full house of family and neighbors sitting in the darkened gym.

It is a school site in which many families had three or four generations attend. The school building was a place for celebrations and, at times, struggles. It was a place where students shared and discovered life experiences with their childhood friends and classmates.

The village of McFarland has grown and changed over the years, and the McFarland grade school has responded to those changes. The old grade school today has reached the end of its practical use as a school. The new primary school represents the latest in a long series of changes. But, the absence of the red brick school building atop Sure Street as you turn the corner from Exchange will definitely take some getting used to.