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Rappel, Joseph J. / A centennial history of the Manitowoc County school districts and its public school system, 1848-1948
([1948])

School buildings, equipment, and school terms,   pp. 4-5 PDF (1008.6 KB)


Page 4


and Two Rivers will be entitled the privilege of building schoolhouses in
their respec-
tive districts, if wanted, before one is built at Manitowoc Rapids."
On September 28,
1844, three school districts were officially set up in Manitowoc county.
The boundaries
of these districts were the same as the assessor districts for that time.
District No. I
was to be known as the Two Rivers school district; District No. 2 as the
Mill school
district (now Manitowoc township and city areas); and District No. 3 was
to be known
as the Union school district made up of the first Manitowoc Rapids area which
took
in the townships outside of the present Manitowoc and Two Rivers townships.
    In 1848, Wisconsin became a state. The first legislature passed legislation
provid-
ing that counties of the state be divided into school districts by the town
superinten-
dent of schools. Manitowoc county had by that date been settled here and
there by
nationality groups which in turn were instrumental in bringing on the tide
of immi-
grants of the 1850's. Records in the assessors' books of 1856 to 1860 on
file in the
county treasurer's vault indicate that by 1860 there were 82 school districts
in opera-
tion in our county. During the 1860's, sixteen more districts were organized.
One
school district was set up in 1870, three in the 1890's, two in the 1900's,
two from 1910
to 1920, and the last three in the 1930's. During these decades some school
districts
in our county consolidated, lowering the total number of districts, as was
the case
when Manitowoc city's four districts became one in 1910. By 1948, there were
115
school districts, including the three city school systems of Kiel, Manitowoc
and Two
Rivers.
    School districts were often set up to put schools within walking distance
of the
children of a community. Some of the later districts were organized to get
out from
under a district maintaining a high school system with a high tax rate. Such
districting
tactics resulted in gross inequalities among the various districts. By 1948
the school
district valuations in the rural areas in Manitowoc county ranged from $167,045
to well
over 1 million dollars. The tax rate ranged from no dollars per thousand
in several
districts to $13.36 in another district. The per pupil cost of education
in the rural one
room school ranged from $64 to $902. Such unequalized educational opportunities
throughout the county and state led the Wisconsin Legislature of 1947 to
set up
County School Committees to develop and institute a plan of school district
reorgani-
zation within each county.
    "Joint" school districts were organized as early as the 1850's,
although they were
not common at that time. A "joint district" is a district with
some of its area within
two or more towns or counties. The first school district set up ifn a township
became
district number 1. Sometimes certain townships have missing district numbers
as is
the case in Newton. A study of the development and organization of the township
and
school districts will reveal thi fact that at some time all of the district
numbers were
accounted for.
    Up to 1917, every school district in Manitowoc county was maintaining
a schodl.
After that year, some district schools were closing due to lack of enrollment
caused
by parochial school attendance, smaller families, farm mechanization, and
other well-
known factors. By 1948, a total of eighteen school districts out of the 115
set up had
ceased to function and had suspended operation. The trend towards closing
small
schools had by no means reversed itself at the close of the first century
of public edu-
cation in Manitowoc county.
         SCHOOL BUILDINGS, EQUIPMENT, AND SCHOOL TERMS
    When the pioneer settlers came to Manitowoc county, they found the land
forest-
covered. It was only natural then that their first schools, like their first
homes, should
be a log house home of the pioneer who took on the job of teaching, along
with his
other responsibilities of clearing the land and constructing the necessary
farm build-
iJgs. In such cases the "front" room of the two room log house
was used as a semi-
school and living room. The "back" room was used as living quarters
by the teacher's
family. The pioneer pupil, in such schools, got his three "R's"
in the midst of squall-
ing babies, barking dogs, the smell of cooking potatoes and cabbage, and
swirling
steam from the family wash. These pioneer pupils often had to make themselves
use-
ful in school by chopping and splitting the firewood, bringing the water
from a near-
by well or creek, and helping to do the family washing.
    The pioneer log schoolhouses were usually built near the center of a
community
of settlers. Usually the land for such school site was donated, for land
was then cheap
and then, too, it ensured a settler of a school very close to his home. As
the community
became more settled, new homes were established around the original settlement.
Since the log school was located without regard to future expansion of the
district, we
find many-school districts today with the school site not at all centrally
located.
4


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