Kearsley celebrates its 75th anniversary
December 14, 2015
Kearsley Community Schools turned 75 years old this year and is still running strong.
The school district is named after U.S. Army Major Jonathan Kearsley, who fought in the War of 1812.
Kearsley was sent to protect Michigan territory during the American Indian Wars of the early 19th century.
He also served as the receiver of public money for the District of Michigan for 30 years before retiring. During that time, he served two separate times as Detroit’s mayor and sat on the Board of Trustees for the University of Michigan.
The first Kearsley school was established before the Civil War on the corner of Genesee and Richfield roads.
Mr. and Mrs. John and Mary Cashin donated an acre of land, enough to make a one-room school building. The original building was expanded to two rooms but burned down in 1929.
The same year, the district obtained a $42,500-bond to purchase land and build a larger school.
The building was expanded to eight rooms. Three teachers and a principal were hired.
Then, in 1937, the first superintendent, George Daly was hired.
In 1940, four local school districts — Tanner, White, Wentworth, and Kearsley — were reorganized to form the Kearsley Rural Agricultural School District.
Since this is the precursor to our modern day district — Kearsley Community Schools — Kearsley recognizes 1940 as the first year in its history.
Weston Elementary, which educates developmental kindergartners, kindergartners, and first graders, was built in 1952 and was expanded in 1961.
Kearsley High School, educating grades nine through 12, was built in 1957, and has had several additions.
The school was expanded in 1965 and in 1968.
In 1974 the auditorium, pool and deck, cafeteria, and locker rooms were added.
The latest add-on was the state-of-the-art science wing in 2001.
In 1958, Paro Elementary was built, while Dowdall Elementary was built two years later in 1960. Both schools were expanded in 1972.
Para Educational Center was then established, an alternative high school where students participated in high school completion classes and worked toward graduation.
Students in grades kindergarten through third now attend Dowdall Elementary.
In 1962, Buffey Elementary was built and was developed in 1963.
Buffey educated grades second through fifth but now houses Pumpkin Patch, a child care and learning center.
Pumpkin Patch has been around for 32 years (since 1983) as a preschool. It was moved to Buffey in 2011.
Fiedler Elementary was built in 1964 and was expanded the following year.
Fiedler now houses fourth and fifth grade students.
The administration building and bus garage were built in 1966.
Armstrong Middle School, which educates grades six through eight, was built in 1972.
The middle school was only expanded once in 1975.
When the Daly Center was first built, it housed all Kearsley area students, but as the district grew it was changed into the George Daly Junior High School.
It is named in honor of the first superintendent, Mr. George Daly.
Then, in 1979, the Daly building was decommissioned because of declining enrollment and high maintenance costs.
The building was then named the George Daly Community Center, and the building was renovated into a permanent home for the Eastside Senior Citizens Center.
After 75 years, tens of thousands have walked through Kearsley’s halls.
One of those students is senior Hannah Mannor.
Mannor has attended Kearsley schools her whole life.
“Kearsley is my home,” Mannor said. “I love coming to school here and seeing my friends and teachers.”
Mr. Greg Oaks, security, graduated from Kearsley in 1976.
Oaks said that when he was in school, there were only three grades at the high school: 10th, 11th, and 12th. However, the school was still packed with around 1,500 students and no science wing.
There are currently 1,087 active students at high school.
Kearsley has changed tremendously over the years in both its structure and its ethics.
Oaks said rules have changed over the years, as well as attitudes.
“There were no vending machines and no gum allowed,” Oaks said. “There was a lot more respect and more fear of the staff.”