Chapter 5 - SCHOOLS
In some written accounts the first school is said to have been a one room building constructed in 1882. This cannot be substantiated.
A newspaper article dated May 12, 1883, states "The contract for the building of the school house at Altoona had been let to O.W. Hubbard for $525, ready for plastering, 20 x 40 feet, twelve foot ceiling." On October 13, 1883, another newspaper said "The enterprising citizens of Altoona are determined to look after the educational as well as the business advancement of the place."
It is highly unlikely that a school building existed in Altoona prior to the 1883 structure. Two school buildings would not have been built one year apart.
If children went to school, other than at home, the closest school was at the present intersection of County AA (Golf Road) and old U.S. Highway 53, the first school built in the town of Washington.
A school district was formed in early October, 1883, the 10th to be created in the town of Washington. A school board was elected consisting of three officers, G. K. Ives, director; David B. Travis, clerk; and William L. Botsford, treasurer. The site of the new school house was the southwest quarter of Block 5 of Shute’s Addition. This is the northeast corner of Division Street and Daniels Avenue. The newly finished school was opened November 5, 1883. Initially there were two teachers, so it apparently had two departments. Eight months was established as the first school term.
The population was growing rapidly, having more than doubled from 215 in December, 1882, to 500 in the 1885 census. This placed added pressure on the school’s enrollment. A January 2, 1886, newspaper article reported that the graded school of two departments was well filled, so much so as to suggest need for building on.
At the July 2, 1888, district school meeting it was voted to have nine months of school for the 1888-89 school year. An addition to the school house, at a cost of $600, was approved and the money appropriated. It was also decided to have three departments and to grade the school, with the head teacher to be the principal.
In June, 1888, the state school fund had allocated $291.35 to the Altoona District. July, 1891, records show the state school fund allocation to be $283.00. At $1.362 per pupil, this indicates 208 students, enrolled.
"History of the Chippewa Valley", published in April, 1892, states that Altoona had a graded school-house with three departments with an aggregate attendance of 350 students. This seems a very high figure as it would average out to almost 44 students per class in each of eight grades. Even an enrollment of 250 appears too high. The city population in 1890 was only 805.
On July 14, 1893, the school district purchased Lots 7 and 8, Block 6 of the Original Plat, located on the northwest corner of 1st Street West and Hayden Avenue. A school building was erected, although one report says that an existing building was moved in. This building is still standing in 1987 and is now the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. This was always used for the lower primary grade of the school district.
After these early boom years, the population growth leveled and the 1895, 1900 and 1905 censuses each showed fewer people than in 1890. Finally in 1910, the census surpassed the 1890 population by reaching 824. The existing school facilities sufficed. The eight grade class of 1901 consisted of three students. In 1903, a class of fourteen was the largest graduating class in the school’s history. This was a very energetic group and they produced an excellent yearbook of 52 pages named the Altoona Headlight. They participated in declamatory contests against Eau Claire schools, fielded uniformed football and baseball teams against Eau Claire schools, and had a choral club.
By 1910, the school board decided that because of age and layout the existing schools were no longer serving as good educational facilities. With approval of the district’s residents, a new brick school was planned. On March 10, 1911, it was announced that the district had received a state loan of $9,000 to build the new school. Plans and specifications were submitted for bid with an early start on construction contemplated.
On April 22, 1911, the city council authorized the vacating of 123.75 feet of Cortland (now Division) Street north of Daniels Avenue between Blocks 4 and 5 of Shute’s Addition for a building site. This was adjacent to the original school building.
The two story school building was erected and completed during 1911, providing ample classrooms for the eight grades.
February of 1912 saw the district sell the school building and land on the northwest corner of 1st Street West and Hayden Avenue to Christ Church of Eau Claire for $775. In April of the same year, the original school on the northeast corner of Division Street and Daniels Avenue was sold, removed and converted into family residences at various locations. The land was retained for playground area.
Need for a district high school was becoming apparent as graduates of the districts eight grade had to go to Eau Claire High School, parochial St. Mary’s High School in Altoona, or to outside boarding schools, which some did. On September 12, 1913, at a special meeting called for that purpose, the voters of the district adopted a resolution to establish and maintain a free high school. Upon certifying to the state that there were at least 25 graduates of the eighth grade residing in the district, a certificate to establish a free high school was granted. The high school opened October 1, 1913, for an eight month term. Members of the school board at that time were Mrs. Guy W. Green, director; George P. Larson, clerk and James L. Botsford, treasurer.
The high school’s first graduate was Emma R. Duncan, class of 1915. There was one graduate in each of the classes of 1916 and 1917. None in 1918. The class of 1919 had five graduates including the first male, Arthur Carroll. There have been graduates every year since 1919.
The 1920-21 school year saw the first athletics introduced by Principal-coach William Miltimore. A six team high school track meet at the Eau Claire County Fair, at Augusta on September 24, 1920, was the first athletic event. A basketball team was established that same season and the sport has continued to this day. The fall of 1921 saw football added. It lasted four years and then a lack of boys forced the dropping of the sport.
By the 1920’s, many more students were progressing through high school. Once again it was evident that there was need for expansion of facilities. In the spring of 1922 an addition was started. It was two stories, of brick and concrete construction, matching the 1911 school building and included a gymnasium and more classrooms.
Girls athletics was begun in 1922-23 when a basketball team was formed. They continued interscholastic competition through the 1925-26 season. They also had track competition. Then the WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association) prohibited girls interscholastic competition. It was not resumed until 1964.
Kindergarten was added to the elementary for the 1928-29 school year; it was kept two years. On March 13, 1929, a special meeting was called in the district to decide if Domestic Science or the Kindergarten would be kept, there not being enough classrooms for both. The vote was 64 to 9 in favor of keeping Domestic Science in the high school and to discontinue kindergarten. An attempt to use the former Altoona State Bank building for a kindergarten for 1930-31 was dropped after state inspectors stated that renovation would cost $1270. This was determined to be too costly. Kindergarten had been held in the gymnasium and the state opposed holding class below ground level.
The 1929-30 basketball team earned a berth at the state tournament at Madison where they won their first game, beating Plattville. They lost their next two, but established the beginning of a great tradition.
The great depression was a tough time for the school district. In July, 1932, the state recommended that there be only three teachers in the high school instead of four for 1932-33, saying that the tax burden was too high for the district taxpayers. As the tax levy had to be reduced due to the very tough times, teachers salaries were also reduced. Only five grade teachers were kept.
In December, 1933, the belfry of the school building was removed, the roof repaired and an electric bell installed.
1933-34 was a banner year for the Railroaders. The basketball team, playing in classes for the first time, again traveled to Madison and participated in the state tournament. There they took second place in Class "B". They followed this in the spring by winning the state championship in Class "C" track. A fine group of athletes did an excellent job in the only two sports that the school participated in.
Transportation of students was begun when Felix Evert was hired on August 25, 1936, to transport students from the highway for $342 per year.
At the 1937 annual meeting a committee was established to work with the school board regarding a school bus to transport students from Country A. On August 3, 1937, a used school bus was purchased from the Elk Mound School District for $150. Dwight Viet was hired to drive the bus for $350 for nine months.
In July, 1937, a school band was started and Arthur M. Howe hired as band instructor, a part time teaching position. Band Mothers was formed and they were very instrumental in the success of the band.
There were problems with the used school bus and the purchase of a new one was favored by a 48 to 20 vote of the district voters. A low bid of $2584 was accepted on August 10, 1938, for a 48 passenger all steel bus on a Reo chassis, which met all state standards. Dwight Neill was contracted to be the bus driver.
The basketball team of 1938-39 was the miracle team. They entered Class "C" tournament play with 7 wins and 8 losses. They won 5 straight games to earn another trip to the state tournament at Madison, Altoona’s third. They then proceeded to win three more games and the Class "C" state championship. An amazing feat! Needless to say, the entire community celebrated the Railroaders success.
Lack of space brought about the renting of the Methodist Church basement for band practice for the 1941-42 school year.
In 1941-42 the school had another excellent basketball team. They made the trip to the state tournament unbeaten, having defeated Eau Claire for the regional title. This year there were no classes, just eight regional winners competing for the state championship. Altoona’s string ran out as they lost both games.
World War II brought many privations as restrictions were placed on many materials for the war effort. All faculty members called to military service were guaranteed their job back if they applied within 60 days of discharge and were physically fit to perform duties. There was a shortage of teachers and salaries went up as competition for them increased. The school board started paying teachers twice a month instead of monthly. Three teachers, including the principal, taught in the high school, but the grade school was reduced from six to five teachers. For the 1944-45 school year, the high school finally got back to four teachers for the first time since 1931-32. This teacher was added to the high school staff on recommendation of the State Department of Education. An additional primary teacher was authorized by the school board in October, 1944. The grade school went back to six teachers in 1945-46.
In a decision that was to have a long range effect on the future size of the school district, the school board voted not to take students form the Robbins School at a meeting held August 23, 1946. The reason given was our present crowded conditions. Opening of school that fall was delayed on week because of a polio epidemic.
Rent of the Altoona Auditorium was increased from $200 to $400 per year provided that no roller skating would be allowed during the school year. The auditorium was used for basketball and roller skating. Skating made the playing floor slippery and dirty causing infections from floor burns.
Coal stokers for the furnace were installed in the summer of 1947. The state recommended fire alarms on each floor and these were installed. Insurance on the school build and its contents was raised 30% with the State Insurance Fund.
A hot lunch program was discussed by the school board in October of 1947 but they decided that there was insufficient money in the beget to begin such a program. The annual district meeting in July, 1948, authorized $1000 to start a hot lunch program and to purchase a gas stove. It has continued through the years, growing to where most students use it now. At the same annual meeting the school board was authorized to negotiate procuring more land for school playground.
Purchasing a new school bus for $3800 was completed in June, 1949. This was followed by building a school bus garage for $3435 on the southern end of 1st Street West. Deluxe Homes, Altoona, owned by Joseph A. Freid, was the contractor.
Building a new school or an addition to the existing one was discussed at length at the district annual meeting on July 11, 1949. Crowded conditions were getting worse. A committee was appointed to work with the school board and make a recommendation.
The old building committee was discharged at the July, 1950, district annual meeting. A new building committee was appointed, charged to investigate the possibility of a new school site and building and report in 90 days. In response to a questionnaire sent out by the county school committee the following motion was passed. "Altoona does not wish to join with any high school district in surrounding territory. Altoona wishes to know the possibilities of enlarging out high school and what surrounding territory could be included to make this possible."
After meeting with the new site-building committee, the school board called a special meeting on November 13, 1950, the purpose of which was to consider plans, specifications and sites for a new high school building. At that meeting the pros and cons of the existing building and the need for additional classroom space were discussed. By unanimous vote of the over 100 district residents present, the school board was authorized to spend the amount necessary to make plans and specifications for a new high school building and to purchase a site for same.
Letters were sent to the districts representative in the State Senate and Assembly asking them to seek an increase in the district’s borrowing power. This site was selected and a survey made of the property. Ten acres of land was then purchased from Mr. And Mrs. Clyde Woodington for $2,500. The site was south of Bartlett Avenue, between 5th and 6th Streets West. The purchase was completed in February, 1951. Mr. Larson and Mr. Playter, architects, were hired to draw preliminary plans for a new high school at 1 % of the estimated cost. The school board had the option of terminating at that point or engaging for working drawings at 3%. When bids were let the architects would receive 1 _% to supervise construction. Principal Einar C. Pedersen was appointed to represent the school board on the steering committee.
On June 27, 1951, a meeting was held with the Robbins School District, town of Washington. Altoona’s building committee and architect discussed Robbins joining in a joint high school with each keeping its own grade school. Robbins school board said they would take it up at their district annual meeting. Apparently, they did not choose to join with Altoona, Altoona’s decision not to take their students on August 23, 1946, was probably a factor in their decision. The long range result was that Robbins school district joined the Eau Claire high school district. Further, it probably was instrumental in that area later annexing to the City of Eau Claire, rather than the City of Altoona, as that was where their children were educated.
The district annual meeting in July, 1951, again reemphasized that Altoona was opposed to the county school master plan and so notified the state and county that the district intended to build a new high school. The school board was authorized to complete plans and specifications and to ask for bids for the new high school. The annual meeting was adjourned until October 1, 1951. Progress on plans for the new school were discussed at the October 1, 1951 meeting. It was decided that nothing further could be done until the City of Altoona was re-assessed. The outline presented at the meeting was as follows:
1. School drawings, plans and specifications should be complted by the end of October.
2. Re-assessment of the city of Altoona should be started in October.
3. Bid asking should be in order some time in December.
Catastrophe! In the early morning hours of October 31, 1951, the Altoona Public School burned. The alarm was sounded at 3:45 AM. Gus Anklam, returning from work at U.S. Rubber Company in Eau Claire, drove past the school and discovered the fire. The roundhouse whistle blew and the Altoona volunteer Fire Department responded. At 4:07 AM Assistant Fire Chief Lyman Miller requested aid form the city of Eau Claire Fire Department. They responded quickly but the time they arrived the fire was already out of control.
The fire, which apparently started in the furnace room area burst through the furnace room wall and into the stairwell. It then spread quickly through the mostly wooden interior of the building. Within an hour it had burned through the roof, which collapsed into the center of the building. Fortunately, no fireman were injured.
Only the brick walls and chimneys were left as the building was gutted. It is thought the fire originated by internal combustion in the new railroad carload of coal purchased and delivered two days earlier. Janitor William Leland had closed the school at 9:30 PM and all was fine at that time. By the time it was discovered, the fire was well advanced.
The school building was said to have contained eight classrooms, a small physical education gym, hot lunch room and furnace-coal storage area. School board director Fred J. Gloede said that the building was appraised at $100,000 but could not be replaced for $200,000. It was insured for $85,000, the maximum allowed under the State Insurance Fund.
October 31 was a busy day, arrangements had to be made for continuing the education for the 90 high school students and the 210 grade school students. The school staff consisted of 11 teachers. Offers of material and assistance were given by Jennie Webster, County School Superintendent, the Eau Claire schools and a local book company. Seats were offered for the first, second and third grades by the Eau Claire public school system and the school board was told that more would be available soon.
That evening the school board met in special session. Authority was given to Principal Einar C. Pedersen and Janitor William Leland to make all necessary arrangements for housing school classes, obtain necessary equipment, books and bus transportation. The following classroom arrangements were reported to have been made:
High School - Altoona Auditorium
7th & 8th - YMCA, Eau Claire
5th & 6th - Orthopedic School, Eau Claire
4th - YMCA, Eau Claire
3rd - Lutheran Church, Altoona
1st & 2nd - Methodist Church, Altoona
A meeting was set with the architects, building committee and school board on November 2, 1951, to make plans for a new school, housing both high school and grades.
It was fortunate that a site had been purchased, architects retained and plans drawn up at the time of the fire. This made it much easier to proceed with changing to a combined high school-elementary school building plan. The meeting on November 2, 1951, found the architect already changing the plans and reporting the okay had been received from federal authorities in Washington for obtaining materials for the new building. The Korean conflict had brought restrictions on certain materials needed in the war effort. Bids were let for razing the burned school building and clearing the debris. The fire escape was given to the city for use on the Altoona Auditorium, and 15 fluorescent industrial fixtures were to be installed in the auditorium.
Hoeppner-Bartlett got the bid to raze the old building an clear the debris, the cost was $1,490. the city advised that they could do nothing about opening Division Street, which became city property again with the removal of the old school, until a later date
Planning for the new school building went forward with bonding, construction and financing discussed. The money from the insurance, $85,000, was received from the state and deposited. A new resolution was passed on January 7, 1952, authorizing the school board to proceed with the building of a high school-elementary school building, preparing plans and specifications for bids and to begin construction at the earliest possible date. The architect reported that the new plans would be read January 15th for bidding, and bids would be opened mid-February. A special election was set for February 25, 1952, on a bond issue by the district.
With all the problems caused by the fire, the basketball team was forced to clear the basketball floor at the auditorium each day in order to be able to practice each day or to play a home game at night. Despite this, they had one of Altoona’s finest season, winning 23 games and losing only 2, those being to Eau Claire Regis, the state parochial champions. They advanced to the state tournament, Altoona’s fifth trip, where they lost twice more. The high school also graduated 30, its’ largest class ever, in the spring of 1952.
Bids were opened and set aside pending the election results. On February 25, 1952, the district residents voted 618 to 159 (79%) in favor of issuing $120,000 in bonds. Contracts were let totaling $206,448 on February 29, 1952. Market & Johnson Construction Company were the general contractors.
Construction was started and the acquiring of equipment and furnishing for the new classrooms began. The P.T.A. gave money to equip one or more rooms. Business and individual donors also contributed things. The budget was tight and no frills were available. Many things such as shades and lockers had to be purchased later. Others were done without.
The new building was constructed in an L shape with the grade wing consisting of eight classrooms plus a kindergarten room along Bartlett Avenue. The north east corner of the L contained a small office complex east of the front entrance. South of that was a 29 X 48 foot multi-purpose and assembly room with a library stack room on the north end and the hot lunch kitchen on the south end. Across the hall on the west side was the boiler room area. Up a short flight of stairs, to the south of this was the high school wing consisting of six classrooms. The kindergarten was the second in the county, as only the Eau Claire School system had kindergarten. In the elementary school each grade now had its own classroom. The high school added home economics and mechanical drawing-woodworking to the curriculum. The teaching staff in both the grades and high school increased accordingly. The band, basketball team and physical education classes continued to use the city auditorium.
On September 22, 1952, the grade school wing was completed and classes started then. The high school wing was completed and classes started on October 12, 1952. the hot lunch program was resumed on November 15, 1952. An open house was held on November 30, 1952, and over 1500 people signed the guest book. The citizens of the district had every right to be proud of what they had accomplished in less than one year from the time of the disastrous fire.
The P.T.A. continued to assist in providing money and material things for the new school after it was operating. Spring saw landscaping and seeding of a lawn accompli painted red, white and blue, traditional school bus colors.
Continued population growth in the city and district brought increased student enrollments. At the annual district school meeting in July, 1953, future building area was discussed and the school board instructed to take necessary steps in planning a building program for the future. Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Woodington were again contacted with regard to their offer of additional land adjoining the school on the west.
Planning of an addition to the high school began in November of 1953. A major problem was the lack of borrowing power because of the present debt load. Financial consultants met with the board to explain ways to borrow money when the state limits left no borrowing ability. In February, 1954, Architect Playter was instructed to prepare plans for two additional classrooms and a gymnasium. It was decided to divide the large kindergarten room to provide another second grade classroom for the 1954-55 school year. The city was asked to improve 7th Street West so that 6th Street West south of Bartlett Avenue could be closed. The block between those two streets south of Bartlett was purchased from the Woodingtons for additional playground area for the grade school.
September, 1954, saw the establishing of the first school patrol program. Planning continued for an addition to the building and how to get the necessary money. Extension of the high school district was discussed. The city of Altoona was asked if they would consider letting the school district use some of their borrowing power. On February 1, 1955, the city council agreed to back the school board with revenue bonds enough to construct adequate additions and a gym.
The final plans called for two classrooms to be added to the west end of the grade school wing. The high school addition was a gymnasium with a 50 x 84 foot playing floor and seating for about 840; a shop area containing a drawing room, finish room and work room; three classrooms, a stage with dressing and shower rooms under it on the east end of the gym. The gym extended to the west from the high school wing. The existing boiler room was to be used by the added facilities. The cost estimate was $155,000.
Financing was to be accomplished by setting up a non-profit corporation. Bids were opened June 6, 1955, and the low bids came to $179,000. this was above the amount that they wished to bond for so $29,000 was borrowed from the State Trust Fund to construct and equip the two grade classrooms. They bonded for $140,000. A special district meeting was held on June 30, 1955, at which the lease of school land was authorized to the non-profit corporation on which the corporation was to build a school building which they would lease to the school district for twenty years with the rent not to exceed $900 per month. The vote was 70 to 1 in favor. Following approval, the Articles of Incorporation for the School Authority Act were signed by the school board. The low bids were approved and construction started. Market & Johnson was again the general contractor.
During all this the Band Mothers had raised enough money to purchase new band uniforms for the school band. They were officially thanked by the school board on February 21, 1955.
The additions were finished on September 29, 1956. The first basketball game was played in the new gym on November 20, 1956, thus ending the era of playing in the Altoona auditorium. The P.T.A. continued its fine work by contributing $1,200 of the $8,300 paid for the gym bleachers and $500 toward the cost of the stage curtains among other things.
The annual district meeting in July, 1957, voted down expanding the school board from three to five members by a 131 to 50 vote. It failed again in July, 1958, by a 94 to 36 vote. January of 1959 found the school board considering soliciting nearby schools for entrance into the Altoona School District in case the high school rezoning legislation passed the state legislature and was signed into law.
Pleasant View School District in the town of Washington asked to bring their 12 students into Altoona. Altoona agreed to accept them on a tuition basis with the district paying for their students’ transportation, beginning with the 1959-60 school year.
Representatives of the teachers met with the school board for the first time in April, 1959. The school board agreed to look at their submission on salaries and working conditions. That summer the school board decided to pay a $100 bonus to teachers who attended summer school for improvement beyond their certification, provided they remained employed by the district one school year after.
A second school bus was purchased prior to the 1959-1960 school year as the enrollment kept increasing, and more area had to be served in transporting students. Cost for a Superior body on a Ford chassis was $6,257. Another bus driver was also hired.
The need for another addition to the school was becoming evident and planning started in April, 1960, a preliminary sketch was presented to the district annual meeting in July. Authorization was given to draw up further plans and these would be voted on. The plan was presented at the adjourned annual meeting on October 24, 1960. A vote of 50 for and 4 against authorized the board to bond or borrow not more than $160,000 and build a new addition. At this meeting the enrollment was given as 143 in the high school and 421 in the grade school, an 85% increase in eight years.
Final plans and specifications were ready in mid-March, 1961, and submitted for bids. Bids were opened on April 13 and low bids accepted on April 18. The addition was to cost $197,365 with Walker Bros. Construction Company of Eau Claire the general contractor. Construction was completed in early November, 1961. The addition was south of the high school wing and gymnasium. It consisted of a large home economics room, larger shop rooms, typing a d bookkeeping room, two science rooms, several small rooms and a new boys’ locker-shower room just off the south side of the gym. The formers boys’ and girls’ dressing rooms under the stage were converted to the girls’ locker-shower facility. The hot lunch kitchen and multi-purpose room were expanded and improved. Some of the rooms formerly used for the high school became grade school rooms.
Growth of the district in size and students continued at a rapid rate. The Washington School District 7 in the town of Washington was mostly absorbed in to the Altoona district, Fall Creek go a small part, and the two teachers were added to the grade school staff. The Robbins School District was also dissolved with Altoona getting 10.4 percent of the valuation and the balance going into the Eau Claire district. At the annual district meeting the residents voted to go from 3 to 5 school board members by a 45 to 3 margin. The additional two members elected were both from the town of Washington.
New band uniforms, enough for 40 members, were purchased for the 1962-63 school year. Enrollment increased 80 students over the previous year with a total of 700. the high school enrollment reached 170 and a football program was started again. Foreign language was offered for the first time other than extension courses. The librarian and music director became full time. The teaching staff reached 27.
Continued growth resulted in the school board considering land for building a new grade school. The Charlson property of 20 acres between 3rd and 5th Streets West, adjacent to the school on the east, was sought. After tough negotiations and a threat of condemnation it was purchased and improved for $50,000. This was a wooded and open area rising to the top of the bluff on the south. It was terraced with the football fields and running track on the upper level, and the lower level next to Bartlett Avenue for the grade school building a playground.
Another small addition was added to the high school wing in 1964 at a cost of $67,000. It included an enlarged music area, enlarged physical education area and an electronics room. A new 1964 Dodge school bus was purchased.
Construction of the elementary school was begun in the same year and it was completed in September, 1965, at a cost of $306,245. Buchholtz Construction Company of Durand was the general contractor. The building housed two kindergartens, three first grades, two second grades, two third grades and a combination gymnasium-lunch room with full kitchen facilities. Enrollment had reached 730 total with 208 in the high school and 522 in the grades, of which about 250 were housed in the new elementary building.
Public transportation of students to and from private schools began with the 1967-68 school year. Lighting was installed on the football field in October, 1967, at a cost of $10,934. The four poles set 58 feet above the ground.
A new 66 passenger school bus was purchased on April 8, 1968, for $8,305 after trade-in of an old bus. The new one had an IH chassis and Superior body.
On September 9, 1968, a new position, superintendent of schools, was created, and Principal Einar Pedersen was promoted to the new position. Assistant Principal Robert Bredesen was promoted to principal of the high school and middle school. Wayne West was made principal of the elementary department, kindergarten through 6th grade.
On July 1, 1971, small changes were made in the school district when part of Section 1 in the town of Washington was detached to the Eau Claire District.
Construction started in 1974 on a $750,000 vocation-physical education addition to the south end of the high school wing. It was ready for the opening of the 1975-76 school term.
In the fall of 1978 the school board appointed a number of school district residents to a committee to examine issues and problems. After much study and many meetings the committee suggested the building of a new high school. This new building would allow the existing high school to be used for the middle school and for expanding the grade school.
Voters at the July, 1980, annual district meeting authorized the school board to purchase land between the high school and 7th Street West for use as a future school site. Plans were drawn by, Durrant Architects of Madison, for a $5.2 million high school with a capacity for 500 students. An additional $2.01 million plan was drawn up separately which would include a swimming pool, between the grade school and the middle school, and an auditorium attached to the new high school.
A referendum was held September 29, 1981, on the two bond issues. Both were rejected by district residents. The high school proposal was defeated 897 to 578 and the swimming pool-auditorium proposal was defeated 1,061 to 380. The instructional staff for the 1981-82 school term was 67.
Despite the loss of the bonding referendum the school board continued to think in terms of a new high school. On January 19, 1982, approval was given for an offer to purchase land on the west side of the school, between it and 7th Street West. The land, appraised at $91,500, was purchased later.
On July 1, 1982, 41.9 acres in Section 36, town of Washington was detached from the Eau Claire School District to the Altoona School District. At the same time a small area in Section 36, town of Washington, was detached from the Altoona School District to the Eau Claire School District.
Voters at the district annual meeting on July 26, 1982, approved expanding the school board from five to seven members effective with the April, 1983, school board election.
The problem of growing school enrollments did not go away and the need for additional classrooms forced the school board to purchase three re-locatable buildings. Two of these were used for high school classrooms and one, 28 x60 feet, was used for grade school classrooms.
Work continued on plans for a new high school and an addition to the grade school. Final plans, by Durrant Architects of Madison, called for a 7,540 square-foot addition to the elementary school at a cost of $375,000 and a 77,945 square foot new high school, with student capacity of 400, at a cost of $3.53 million. A referendum was held on the bond issue on September 2, 1986, and district residents approved it 832 to 783.
The re-locatable classroom building used for the grade school was sold December 1, 1986, to the Boyceville school district for $25,000.
On March 2, 1987, the school board approved the expansion of the summer school program to allow high school students an opportunity to gain credits required for graduation.
Construction bids on the two school projects were opened April 9, 1987, and about 100 bids were received. Bids were awarded on April 16 to the following contractors:
High School General - $524,696 Market and Johnson, Eau Claire.
Elemetary General - $76,232 Jurowski, Whitehall.
High School and elementary Structural Steel - $188,792
Phoenix Steel, Eau Claire
High School Roofing - $156,541 Horel-George, Eau Claire.
Elementary Roofing - $24,378
North Central Insulated Roofing, Eau Claire
High School Pre-Cast Concrete and Walls - $239,186 Phadholm, Osseo, Minnesota.
Elementary Pre-Cast concrete and Walls - $20,950 Eau Claire Pre-Cast
High School Plumbing - $170,100 Tri-State Mechanical, Ashland
High School Heating - $302,581 Badge State, Eau Claire
High School Electrical - $385, 408 Chetek Town and Country Electric
Elementary Electrical - $28,133 B&B Electrical, Chippewa Falls
Total cost of bids $2,406,995.
Ground was broken in May, 1987, and construction of the grade school addition and the new high school started. The grade school addition is expected to be occupied in early 1988 and the high school will be ready for the 1988-89 school term.
For more history on the Altoona Schools, read: A History of Altoona by Gerald A. Hagen. You can find the book at the Altoona Public Library or the Altoona High School Library.
A $23,000,000 referendum to build a new energy-efficient elementary school on KB, and to make capital maintenance, safety and health-related building and site improvements to the Bartlett Avenue campus was passed in November 2014.
- Construction at the new elementary school, located at 157 Bartlett Avenue, began on June 2, 2015. The new school, named Altoona Elementary, was completed in summer 2016.
- Renovations at the high school began in June 2015, and were completed prior to the start of the 2015/16 school year.
- Construction on the Bartlett Avenue campus kicked off with demolition of the oldest part of the middle school building on May 31, 2016. Demolition included the east-west wing that most recently housed the Altoona Intermediate School (grades 4-5), the intermediate/middle school offices, lower boiler room and walk-way to the elementary building.