Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

School marks 100 years of graduates

Moose Lake High School graduates to gather for reunion


courtesy Moose Lake Area Historical Society

Children gather for a photo in front of the old Moose Lake Public School, located where the power plant is now.

As the community gathers for the Fourth of July celebration and the 125th anniversary of the city of Moose Lake, Moose Lake students and former students will also be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first graduating class of Moose Lake High School during the All-Class Reunion, to be held on July 4-5 at the Moose Lake school and Riverside Arena.

According to Moose Lake Area History, Volume II, Moose Lake's first school was held in the waiting room of the railroad depot with 10-12 pupils, mostly American Indians. The school district was organized on March 11, 1873. The school term was six months per year, with three months in the fall and three months in the spring.

The first real schoolhouse was built in 1882. This was found to be too small, so in 1894 a four-room frame building was erected at the corner of Fourth Street and Douglas Avenue. Graduation exercises were held for the first time June 3, 1909, with the eighth and ninth grades celebrating together.

A new high school building project was initiated in 1911. Bonds were approved for $10,000, with the building completed and accredited in 1914. In the spring of 1915, the first graduating class of Moose Lake High School numbered three students: Mildred Anderson, Lloyd Carlson and Robert Mossberg. By 1935, 34 students were in the graduating class, bringing the total number of graduates through that year to 296. Until 1918, the old building was used to house the lower grades, with the upper classes being housed in the new building. Mothers of small children were uneasy about the lack of fire escapes in the old building. Fate lent a hand, for the 1918 fire burned the old school but spared the new building.

After the fire swept through the area, the high school served as a hospital, with volunteer nurses in charge. The Red Cross also headquartered there.

Shortly after the beginning of the new year, school re-opened. Pickerel Lake students were transported to the school. Added enrollment necessitated more space. In 1919 a new school was built at a cost of $55,000. It was difficult to borrow for construction due to the low evaluation of property in Moose Lake after the fire.

The class of 1930, believing in keeping up the good fellowship of graduate members, organized the Moose Lake Alumni Association. The class of 1930 was also the originator of the annual, Minicahda, the first ever to be published by the Moose Lake High School students. Stanford Dodge was the first editor-in-chief, and Earle Anderson was the business manager. The first annual was dedicated to the new school.

In 1933 bus routes began picking up high school students from Split Rock, Silver, Beaver and Milward townships. This growth was to be met by tragedy again. On January 15, 1935, the school burned to the ground. Classes resumed a week later in the local churches, the Masonic Temple, the railroad depot, the town hall and the jail.

The board responded quickly by planning a new building. On April 2, 1936, the building was ready for use. The total cost was $135,000, with a portion of the funding provided by WPA assistance.

Consolidation was the outcome of a 1936 special election. Lincoln, Birch Grove and Eckman districts joined the Moose Lake district. An addition was built on the north end of the school in 1942 to provide increased science rooms, a band room and elementary classrooms. A bus garage was built in 1948.

In 1948 the voters approved consolidation once again. High school students from Kettle River, Split Rock and Windemere joined District 3 (Moose Lake). Each of these districts would continue to maintain to its elementary school. Additional numbers prompted a bond issue of $260,000 in 1953. It passed, providing space on the south end of the school to house eight classrooms, a combined farm-shop-industrial arts room, new office space for the superintendent and an enlarged library.

District 95 from Pine County annexed to District 3 in 1954. Split Rock joined the Moose Lake district five years later. On September 6, 1957, Moose Lake changed from District 3 to 97 in cooperation with the state's uniform numbering system.

Voters turned down a building proposal for a new high school, which was to have been built south of the state hospital (now the prison). This land was no longer needed by the hospital due to the discontinuance of the hospital's farming operation. The land was purchased from the state by the school district. The bond issue for building on this site was defeated by 34 votes in 1966, and was thwarted by an even greater number when re-submitted in 1967. The district population at this time was 4,500, with a projected enrollment of 1,000 pupils.

A $400,000 bond issue was successful in 1971, resulting in a building and remodeling project. A new gymnasium was added, the garage was remodeled into a home economics room, locker rooms and a kindergarten room. A new bus garage was built on the land south of town. To finish this project an additional $100,000 bond was passed in 1972.

Athletics have always been a source of pride to the citizens of Moose Lake. The first state title was won by the Lady Lakers in volleyball during the 1975-76 school year. The girls earned the state titles in both volleyball and softball during the 1980-81 school year. To climax that success, the Lady Lakers earned the "Triple Crown" (state champions in volleyball, basketball and softball) in 1981-82.

In the 1980s, approval was received from the Minnesota High School League for full participation with Willow River in athletic programs. The combined sport program resulted in renaming the teams "Rebels."

A $3.95 million building project was approved in November 1986. New construction involved the addition of an elementary wing to the house elementary classrooms and a new lunch facility. Remodeling included an expanded science department, with a laboratory, and space for a separate computer classroom. Repairs in the old auditorium and the inclusion of an elevator to meet state and federal handicap accessibility regulations were included in the remodeling project. The project was completed in the spring of 1989 - the Centennial year of the city of Moose Lake. Dedication ceremonies with Gov. and Mrs. Rudy Perpich and Ruth Randall, Minnesota Commissioner of Education, were held on May 7, 1989.

According to information from the school district, two more referendums for a new school on the site south of the former state hospital (now the prison), bond referendums were held in May and September 2004 for $27 million in bonding. The second proposal added a second question about $700,000 for new athletic fields on the new school site. Both referendums failed.

Another bond referendum for $21.5 million was held on February 21, 2006, with the proposal to just build a new high school on the land south of the prison. The newer elementary school would be remodeled and remain on the current site. That proposal failed in the vote.

In 2012, after heavy spring rains, the waters of the Moose Horn River and Moosehead Lake rose to 19 feet. Water entered the lower level of the school and flooded several areas, especially the shop and technology room. The elementary wing was surrounded by flood water but crews sandbagged the entrances and inside the building to prevent water from entering the gym.

The measures were thought to be successful until it was discovered that flood waters had seeped into the walls in the elementary classrooms.

Repairs to the building, equipment, and, later, the baseball field, totaled $860,000. The repairs funded by FEMA, the state and insurance totaled $833,117. Linda Dahlman, the business manager for the school district, explained that the damages to the baseball field weren't discovered until it was too late to apply for funding for the cost of repairs.

The school board approved another bond referendum election to move the school from the flood plain to the new site, and a $33 million referendum for a preK-12 school was held on May 21, 2013. It failed by a 2 -1 vote.

The Moose Lake School District joined the Rushford-Peterson School District in 2013 in hiring a lobbyist to attempt to secure funding to replace the flood-prone schools in both districts. The Legislature did not approve the proposals in the 2013 session.

Community members joined school officials in traveling to St. Paul to meet with the legislators in 2014, and were successful in securing 60 percent in state funding of new schools in both school districts.

The Moose Lake School Board has hired ARI, an architectural firm, and Oscar J. Boldt Construction as the construction manager to begin the process of offering a proposal to the voters for a new preK-12 school building, possibly in the November 4 general election.

More information about a proposed school will be presented to the school board at the July 14th meeting.


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