In January of 1959, the board purchased 39.9 acres of land on the north side of the city north of Watson Street. It also acquired 15.5 acres of land from Mr. and Mrs. Everett Aris, whichgave the district right-of-way to Maple Street.
In July 19, 1960, the board revealed a $3.385 million senior high building plan. A vote was held on October 17, 1960, but the proposal lost by 990 to 792. A new vote was held on March 6, 1961 for $2.1 million; that too, lost by 1,117 to 664. Finally on October 4, 1962, voters approved a $3.5 million bond issue for the construction of a new high school, by 1,288 to 1,187 after a bitter campaign.
“Six concerned taxpayers” however, filed suit on December 28, 1962, charging that numerous land contract purchasersof homes and other persons were not legally qualified to cast votes. At that time you had to be a property owner to vote in such elections. A long series of legal battles began. Briefs were filed on both sides; rulings were appealed. The matter finally went before the MichiganSupreme Court. On July 8, 1964, the Court ruled that the 1962 election was legally conducted and that land contract purchasers were qualified to vote.
The school board promptly sold bonds on August 25, 1964 at 3.23% interest. Unfortunately, the legal delays caused by the lawsuit resulted in a lapse of time during which prices and construction costs skyrocketed. When the bids for the building were opened on July 29, 1965; they ran $450,000 higher than the original estimate of two years earlier when the voting was held. This would not have happened had the project been undertaken at the end of 1962. The board held another election on November 8, 1965, and the electors of the district approved an extra $400,000 for the project by a wide majority of 1,211 to 222. These bonds were sold onFebruary 2, 1966 at 3.69% interest. Thus the legal and financial problems which had delayed the building of the new high school were resolved, and construction finally commenced.
The construction contract for the new high school was awarded to Miller-Davis Company of Kalamazoo; architect was the Warren Holmes Company. Construction began on September 1, 1965. The school opened for classes on January 9, 1967, although the gymnasium, swimming pool and other facilities were still incomplete. The new class of 1967 was the first to graduate in the new high school.
A dedication and open house was held on Sunday May 21, 1967. The grant total cost of the project was $3,250,290. The building contained 150,150 square feet. A cornerstone box was installed, and various items were put in it before it wassealed and imbedded in the building.
A recurring problem, particularly in the high school, was the enforcement of the discipline code, and racial unrest. As a student during the late 1960’s, this author [Frank Passic] vividly remembers numerous times when the high school was closed, and police or other enforcement authorities patrolled the sidewalks and buildings. Bomb scares became increasingly frequent, and students were sent home as the school and lockers were searched. Albion High School was closed several times as a result of student unrest. The worst periods of unrest occurred in March 1966, March 1970, and April 1975.
The unrest in the schools caused the position of principal at Albion High School to become very unattractive. Principals were threatened by both parents and students. The job was extremely stressful and dangerous. One principal, Max Matson, had his home shot at during the period of unrest in early 1970. One by one, principals came and left. This was in sharp contrast to the long years of service by such men as William Harton and Harry Williams years earlier.
In an attempt to save the district 135,000 due to millage failures and the loss of state revenues, the school board laid off a number of teachers, custodians, and other personnel in November 1979. This was a drastic cut which produced much controversy. Class hours at the junior and senior high schools were reduced to five-hour days. The 1980 Senior High Yearbook sums up conditions for the 1979-80 school year:
To Whom it May Concern
For the teachers as well as for the students at Albion Senior High School, it has been a year of many changes! Courses were eliminated from the curriculum which resulted in many teacher layoffs. Most of the clubs which involved a great number of students in extra-curricular activities were discontinued. Because the teachers had no contract they went on a strike whose duration was about 3 weeks. Unfortunately, students (as well as teachers) suffered because of this action and had to remain in school for 3 more weeks in June. since students were required to attend school for only 5 hours, their school day ended at 1:00pm. Of course, had the millage not been defeated, most of these changes would not have occurred.
In spite of this “no frills” approach to education, we as teachers must attempt to meet the needs of all students. In a society in which indifference and apathy prevail, we must learn to care. Can we?
Principals and their years of service from 1966 to 1980 were: John Kremkow (1966-67 to 1967-68), Max Matson (1968-69 to 1969-70), Joseph Castle (1970-71), Robert Bacon (1971-72 to 1972-73), Clarence Lacny (1974-75), and Russel Spanninga (1975-76 to 1979-80). The later, Spanninga, had bee a teacher at Washington Gardner High School since 1964 and was familiar with theschool system and its problems. His tenure was the longest, and he remained with the school system after his resignation as principal.
Source: Frank Passic. A History of the Albion Public Schools. Albion, Michigan: E. Weil Publishing Services. 1991.