Glen Rock Schools
For this year's Quasquicentennial Celebration, The Rock Recorder Blog will post a chronological (as much as possible) history of Glen Rock, NJ. My main source for framing this series is an unpublished manuscript in the Glen Rock Historical & Preservation Society's archive, which was written by George Hubschmitt. This is Part #14 of the series.
In 1911, the Glen Rock Board of Education hired Miss Clara Coleman of Boonton to teach in the wooden School #1 on Maple Avenue. There was a constant turnover of female teachers as only unmarried women were allowed to teach at the time. Miss Coleman bucked the trend, however, and enjoyed a long and successful career as a Glen Rock teacher for 36 years. When School #1 was razed in 1939, Miss Coleman continued teaching first, second and third grades in Central School (built in 1925). Clara Coleman was so beloved by the townspeople that when the school population increased to the point where an additional elementary school building was needed in 1950, it was agreed to name the new school after her (she had retired in 1947). The Clara E. Coleman elementary school began as a wing in the Junior High School on Harristown Road. When the new and larger school was erected on Pinelynn Road in 1954, the children and the school name moved seamlessly into the new location – and the elementary wing in the Junior High School was renamed the Alexander Hamilton School. In 1958, the new and larger Hamilton School was built in its current location on Harristown Road. St. Catharine’s Interparochial School (now the Academy of Our Lady) also opened its doors in the early 1950s, welcoming children in grades kindergarten through eighth.
From Coleman School Dedication Program, 1954
From Hamilton School Dedication Program, 1958
The growth of the Glen Rock School District reflects the rapid population growth of the borough. The 1900 Federal Census counts just 613 residents; in the 1920 Federal Census, there were 2,181 people living in Glen Rock. School #1 was discussed in an earlier Rock Recorder Blog post (you can read it here: https://www.glenrockhistory.org/single-post/2019/07/10/Glen-Rocks-School-1-1900-1939 ). By 1915 it was very apparent that a second school structure was needed, so in that year Glen Rock’s School #2 was built on Doremus Avenue. J. Oscar Bunce, the local architect who had designed School #1, was hired to design School #2 as well but he was tasked with building a brick, rather than a wooden, building this time for fire safety purposes. Construction costs were set at $20,000.00 by the Board of Education. Board of Ed member William L. Platt, who ran a construction company, resigned from the BoE in January 1915; a few months later, his company was awarded the contract for School #2 with a low bid of $18,994.00. The plans called for a four-room, rather plain, oblong building. In September 1915, School #2 welcomed 29 students. School opening the next year was postponed for a month due to an epidemic of infantile paralysis (polio); school was again closed for a time at the end of that school year, this time due to an outbreak of scarlet fever. In 1931, more space was needed (1930 Federal Census: 4,369 residents) and School #2 was largely rebuilt to accommodate eight classrooms, administrative offices, a nurse’s room, a teacher’s room and a beautiful auditorium complete with large windows and six chandeliers. It was at this time that the name of the school was changed to the Richard E. Byrd School – named in honor of the famous pioneering aviator and polar explorer.
School #2 (later renamed Byrd School), c. 1915
Ten years after School #2 opened, it became obvious that a third school was needed and Central School, situated right next door to School #1 on Maple Avenue, was built. The original idea was for School #1 to be razed when Central opened, but the need for classrooms was such that the demolition was put off. Central School was built as an elementary school but in 1929 it became the borough’s first junior high school. Before this time, Glen Rock’s junior high and high school age students continued their education in the Ridgewood School District. Central reverted to an elementary school once the new Glen Rock Junior High School (now the GR Middle School) went up on Harristown Road and School #1 was, finally, razed in 1939. In 1955, Ridgewood informed the Glen Rock Board of Education that it could no longer accept out-of-town students due to space limitations, so in 1956 the Glen Rock High School opened with sophomore and freshman classes. The first graduating class from the GRHS was the Class of 1959.
From Central School Dedication Program, 1926
Glen Rock Junior High School (now Glen Rock Middle School), c. 1940
From Glen Rock High School Dedication Program, 1956