On September 30, at 7:00 p.m., the Maynard Public Library will present a Zoomed talk titled: “Maynard’s Schools Through the Centuries.” This is the eighth in a monthly series of history lectures produced by the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee as part of Maynard’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of its creation. Register at https://www.maynardpubliclibrary.org/may150. The October talk will be “The Maynard Family.” A new history book “MAYNARD MASSACHUSETTS: A Brief History”, is for sale for $21.99 at 6 Bridges Gallery, 77 Main Street, WED-SAT, 12-5.
Last week’s column about school buildings down the centuries had little to say about the people in those schools. As resources, the Maynard Public Library has copies of the town’s annual reports back to 1871, each with a subsection on the school system. Also useful, the Maynard Historical Society has a sizeable collection of the high school yearbooks, all of which have been scanned and can be read in their entirety on-line.
At the time of the incorporation of Maynard in 1871, town population 1800, the new town was served by ten teachers working in four small school buildings. Salaries were in the range of $9-15/week. The high school was a two-room wooden building on Nason Street, now site of the library. High school enrollment was 35 students.
Twenty-one years later. the high school graduating class of 1892 chose orange and black as the school colors. (The Town of Maynard decided on official town colors of blue and white in 1917. Who knew?) Mr. E. Elmer Galger, principal and acting superintendent, was paid a salary of $1,061. At that time, state law required that a child shall go to school twenty weeks in each year until 14 years old (changed to 16 years old in 1913). Not until 1898 did state law prohibit children under 14 year of age doing factory work. Farm work had no age limit. Few students completed 12 years of schooling. Often, their parents encouraged them to leave school and get a job in order to supplement the family income. Circa 1910-20, the graduating class numbered in the teens.
|Graduating class of 1917, Maynard High School, |
Maynard, MA (courtesy historical society)
School annual reports provide information on peaks and valleys in school enrollment, and also on the quality of education. There had been a huge spike in births 1900-1920, reflecting a tripling in the town’s population after the American Woolen Company bought and expanded the woolen mill, and also built and rented houses in the “Presidential District.” There was a peak in school enrollment 1923-30, reaching 1,750 students. This was less than might have been expected considering births, but childhood mortality was high, and as noted, many students left school at the earliest possible age. Births were low 1930-45, not a surprise given the Great Depression and World War II. Enrollment had dropped to under 1,000 around 1943-47. Post-war, new housing on the north side of town in combination with the “Baby Boom” reaching a peak 1960-75, led to school enrollment cresting at 2,100 around 1968-75. Once the “Boom” children were past school years, enrollment dropped to around 1250 for 1986-93, and then recovered to the mid-teens, where it remains.
The 1909 annual report mentioned that among 14 neighboring towns, Maynard had by far the lowest school budget at $22,000. Come 1937, the budget was $98,000, and of a state survey of 83 towns, Maynard was 73rd in expenditure per student. Year after year after year, the school superintendents’ annual reports mentioned that Maynard lost teachers to other towns that paid more
Alumni Field became the school's sports site long before the high school moved to the south side of town. In 1928, while Maynard High School was still at the Summer Street location, the town transferred the land that had been the Town Poor Farm meadow to the school department. The football team started using the new playing field for the 1928 season. Within a handful of years Alumni Field gained a cinder track around the playing field, bleachers, a field house and tennis courts.
|Click on photos to enlarge|
Massachusetts voters endorsed the tax-increase-limiting Proposition 2-1/2 in 1980. A large impact to school operations was foreseen. In Maynard, this, in combination with a fast-declining enrollment, led to a massive disruption. In 1981, 51 positions eliminated (25 professionals and 26 non-teaching positions). Teacher:student ratios were increased. Coolidge School closed after 75 years of service.
AND THERE IS SO MUCH MORE INFORMATION, which may have to wait for a third article, after the September 30 talk.
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