By Vern Cahak
With another school year drawing to a close and the ongoing controversy over elementary school construction, it is appropriate to reflect on the history of the current elementary schools in the Unified School District of Antigo that have served the educational needs of many thousands of students for well over 50 years.
In 1960, a state-mandated school consolidation plan was implemented in what is now the Unified School District of Antigo. As a result, during a three-year period, seven new public elementary schools were constructed, four in rural areas and three in the city of Antigo. They include rural schools Crestwood, Spring Valley, Pleasant View and River Grove, which closed several years ago. North, East and West elementary schools in the city of Antigo were built during the same period.
The building boon had a price tag of $1.8 million dollars and provided 70 new classrooms for over 2,000 students. Under the consolidation, 32 one-room schools in 29 districts were merged into four large school districts, which were termed a model for the state of Wisconsin. Cost of the rural schools alone was $690,000.
Crestwood School pioneered the consolidation system with seven districts merging into one in July of 1958. The diagonal designed Crestwood School was built at a cost of $140,000. It opened for classes on Jan. 19, 1959 with an enrollment of 223. Viola Resch was principal.
Following Crestwood were the $178,500 River Grove School, the $182,000 Spring Valley School and the $190,000 Pleasant View School . River Grove opened on Jan. 9, 1961 while classes at Spring Valley and Pleasant View began in January of 1962. Principals were Marjorie Mosher at River Grove, Mathline Petrick at Spring Valley and Stacia Galarowicz at Pleasant View.
Meanwhile, the city of Antigo was on track for its own school construction surge during the same time period. On April 5, 1960 Antigo School District voters gave resounding approval to a $620,000 bond issue referendum to build three new elementary schools. The vote was 2,401 in favor and 981 opposed.
Construction of North, East and West elementary schools began in November of 1960 and classes began in September of 1961.
In addition to the seven new public schools in the Antigo School District, major building projects were undertaken by two parochial school parishes. St. Hyacinth’s Catholic Parish constructed a $200,000 eight-classroom school in March of 1961 and Peace Lutheran completed a $135,000 addition and remodeling project that included two classrooms.
Even little St. Joseph’s school in Phlox got into the act, constructing a three-classroom school which opened on Feb. 28, 1961