Between the years 1910 and 1950, schools throughout the nation began to switch from the one and two room schools into larger multiple room district schools. Was Beverly typical or atypical in following the nation-wide movement?
From the years between 1910 and 1960 there was a nationwide progressive education movement. This movement led to the consolidation of one and two room neighborhoods into larger multiple room district schools. Educational authorities claimed that the consolidation of these neighborhood schools would be more educationally effective. Many communities agreed with this idea as the number of one-room schools dropped form approximately 200,000 to 20,000 during this time period.  Some rural communities in states such as Ohio, Wisconsin and Idaho opposed unification of schools, however, there were also the school systems like that of New York, whose systems were greatly influenced by this movement. Beverly’s school system was typical in relation to the rest of the country as the one-room schools in the community quickly disappeared. However, Beverly is atypical to the rest of the nation’s school systems as the switch was made not because it was desired that the schools consolidate, but because of a boom in public school enrollment.
The period between 1895 and 1919 was one of many changes. In 1895 one and two room schools were being built left and right in Beverly. During this year a new school was built in Ryal Side as well as on Prospect Hill. However, in other parts of the city, overcrowding was already becoming a problem. For example, the Pleasant View school taught fifty children, and was a school of only two rooms. As time passed this increased enrollment did not change. By 1897, at the South School, Pleasant View School and the Farms school, each room had over fifty pupils enrolled. There was not a vacant room in the city. Even the high school was having problems with overcrowding as never before in the history of the high school had there been so many students enrolled as of 1897. During this time period the overcrowding was due to two main sources, one of which was the building of the United Shoe Machine Corporation. Not only was it causing crowded rooms throughout the city, it also called for the construction of a new twelve room school near the junction of Balch and Mckay streets. Another factor that caused an increase in enrollment was child labor laws. In 1913, the child labor law extended the school age to sixteen. This had a tremendous effect on the high school enrollment.
The majority of Beverly schools made the switch from one and two room schools to multiple room schools in a short period of time. This was seen at the Ryal Side school. Ryal Side was one of the community’s quickest growing areas of the city during this time period. In 1897 there were seventy pupils in attendance at the two room Ryal Side schoolhouse. Due to this overcrowding it was proposed that the school be enlarged at once. In 1901 a new school was built in Ryal Side. This school was not only larger, but also had land available around it so that four more rooms could be added when necessary. Those four rooms were needed much sooner than anticipated as in 1909 four more rooms were added to Ryal Side. Even after the numerous additions to the school, it was not enough. In 1918 two portable classrooms were purchased in order to relieve problems of overcrowding at the school. And in the following year four more rooms as well as an assembly hall were added to this already large school.
The South School district was also a district struggling with problems of overcrowding. Luckily, the Pleasant View School, which was located very close to the South School was built so that two rooms could be added. In 1896 these rooms were added, therefore relieving the South School of its overcrowding problems. This solution was only temporary however as in 1898 there was no spare room at the South School once again. In 1903 the school committee realized it could no longer delay an addition to the South School and it was proposed that six rooms be added. In 1904 construction began but in the end only four rooms were added.
In 1897 the Farms school consisted of only one room. However, this one room consisted of fifty students, an unexceptable number. No construction occurred in the farms until 1903 when this district received a new brick eight-room building large enough to accommodate three hundred students.
The Hardie School was not suffering from overcrowding, but from dilapidation. The Hardie School was growing old and in 1898 was replaced by a new Hardie schoolhouse consisting of twelve rooms. The construction of this new school gave relief to many neighboring districts.
In 1903 the development of numerous houses on Prospect Hill was beginning to take its toll on the Prospect School. Due to the increase in population in this area four rooms were added to the school in 1904.
Another addition that helped relieve the pressure of overcrowding was the addition of a new building in the Washington district. In 1910 this school (Edwards) was opened for use.
North Beverly was yet another school that did not suffer from overcrowding, but from unsuitable conditions. In 1919 it was proposed that a new eight room be built without delay.
Even the high school was suffering from overcrowding during the time period from 1895 through 1919. By 1898 the high school had outgrown its building. In 1904 it was proposed to build a new building large enough to accommodate one thousand pupils. However, nothing was done to aid the problem at the high school and in 1918 the school was forced to hold two sessions a day in order to provide schooling to all pupils enrolled at the high school.
Even with all the construction that occurred between 1895 and 1919 there were still five schoolrooms in the system that had fifty pupils in them. Because of this the movement from one-room schools to multiple room schools continued between 1920 and 1939. In 1920 it was still evident that the Beverly Public Schools were not consolidating due to a progressive movement in education, as during this year the supreme need was more adequate and larger school facilities to fit the needs of the constantly increasing school enrollment. Overcrowding was still a major concern in Beverly as the only schools that were not overcrowded or filled to capacity were Centerville, the Farms, Prospect and South.
In 1922, due once again to unsuitable conditions and a school filled to capacity that Bass River School was taken down and the Charles S. Brown school was built in its place. Also during this time period the crowded conditions at the high school were finally relieved. In 1922, there were twelve hundred and thirty pupils in a building fit to accommodate six hundred and forty one. Thankfully, in 1924 the new High School was ready for use and was located at the present day Briscoe Middle School.
In 1926 the school system became rather optimistic as it stated in their report that “our schools are in excellent condition to take care of the normal expansion of the city for a number of years to come.” The committee was right in its prediction that no construction would occur for many years, however the problems of overcrowding never ceased. The main reason that construction and additions to existing buildings was halted was due to the great depression.
The great depression had a tremendous impact on the Beverly school system. Unfortunately, in a time of sacrifice, the number of students in the system increased. This was a problem as school space was hard to find as the city was trying to conserve and help the economy in every way even if it meant giving up certain schoolhouses and consolidating them with many other schools. This in fact did happen. As a result of the depression, in 1933, the Pleasant View students were transferred to the Edwards school in order to save the expenses of heating, lighting and the janitorial service at Pleasant View. The school never reopened after the depression.
In 1935 there was still no construction underway. However, at this time there was no need of it. There were sixteen vacant rooms in the grammar schools. Problems no longer lied within the size of the schoolhouse. It dealt with where the district lines were drawn. Crowded conditions seemed to center around the High School, Briscoe, Prospect and Ryal Side Schools. This was due to the fact that these areas dealt with the sections of the city that had the highest populations.
In 1938 a change occurred in the elementary schools. Elementary school enrollments had become stabilized. The school committee once again anticipated that there should be no need for additional construction unless a trade boom or increased residential advantages attract more people to Beverly.
The period between 1940 and 1960 was the last wave of construction to be seen during the period of consolidation of neighborhood schools. School enrollment had once again turned upward and there were many schools in the city still facing problems of overcrowding. However, the majority of the overcrowding problems were a result of new housing developments being built in the city. For example, new homes under construction in the vicinity of Beverly Hospital in 1947 posed problems for the Prospect school as that was the district in which these new homes belonged. However, at this time there was no room at the school for these additional pupils, which is now being developed to relieve the housing shortage in the city.
Yet another housing development that had an effect on the school system was the construction of the Raymond Farms housing development. In 1960 the development of this large area began to effect the McKay school. Fortunately, also at this time there was a new schoolroom being built in Ryal Side that could help relieve the crowding at McKay. The construction of the new Ryal Side school was not completed until after 1960 however was a twelve room school under construction during 1960 and was being built upon Green’s Hill.
Other construction occurring during this time period was the North Beverly School. It was to be built on city property located just off Brimbal Avenue; this school was intended to house three hundred and sixty of the city’s students. The twelve-room school was not completed however until 1956.
In 1946 it was proposed that a new school be erected in order to assist in eliminating overcrowding problems due to population shifts in the past twenty years. It was decided that this school be built in an area that would accommodate pupils who live in the Cove and Montserrat areas. It was vital that the school be placed in this vicinity as the Montserrat neighborhood is located next to the cove and has never had a building of its own. It was also appropriate that the school include cove students as the cove district has seemingly outgrown its fifty five-year-old four-room wooden structure building. The old wooden building after vacated by the present students would then be used for physically handicapped and special class children.
On February 13, 1965 the students and teaching staff moved into the Cove – Montserrat school. A new twelve room elementary school that was built in order to hold three hundred and sixty pupils. Not only did this new school consist of twelve rooms, but it was also constructed so that it could provide for up to a six-room addition.
Construction was also occurring in the Centerville area. In 1959 a realization was made that there is a growing need to provide more classrooms in the Centerville district. As at this time five classes were being taught in a three-room school. In response to this observation the school committee petitioned to the mayor for fifty acres of land located at the junction of Would Lane and Hull Street.
With all the new construction occurring during this time period and with new schools located in more convenient locations it was decided in 1951 that the Prospect School should close as it was not a well-constructed school nor was it in an ideal location.
Major changes were also occurring in the middle schools during this time. In 1953 the Memorial Middle School was under construction and would be ready for occupancy in September of 1954. Plans for this school were proposed before the war but were rejected and the building of this school was long overdue. After construction at the Memorial Middle School was completed the Briscoe Junior High was remodeled in order to provide four additional classrooms.
At the end of the progressive education movement to consolidate schoolhouses the Beverly School Committee was requesting fifty acres of land on the Avery – farm site in the area of North Herrick Street for construction of a new high school. This proposal was rejected for the time being.
After reviewing the history of Beverly Public Schools it is apparent that they did in fact follow the trend of consolidation between the years of 1910 and 1960. This is also seen through different statistics and charts. Proof that the schools followed in this nation wide movement towards consolidation is seen in figure ten that displays how many rooms were added to each school, and when these rooms were added. Another example is that, in 1906 there were only eighty-three classrooms in the entire city. That number jumped to one hundred and twenty in the year of 1922 and only four years later the number increased tremendously to two hundred and thirty seven rooms. Also, in figure eleven it can be seen that the cause of consolidation made Beverly atypical to the situation as this charts shows that it was the problems of overcrowding of the schools that caused the one and two room schools to disappear and multiple room larger district schools to appear.
The school building history of the Beverly School system is interesting and constantly changing. Today, there is a new wave of construction occurring, for the same reasons that they were between the years of the progressive education movement. From this history it can be deduced that Beverly is typical of the movement only in the fact that the number of rooms increased. Beverly did not change for the benefit of the students, only to help decrease the problems of overcrowding.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City of Beverly, Mass. 1895. Allen Print, 1896.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City of Beverly, Mass. 1896. Allen Print, 1897.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City of Beverly, Mass. 1897. Allen Print, 1898.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City of Beverly, Mass. 1898. Allen Print, 1899.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City of Beverly, Mass. 1900. Allen Print, 1901.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1901. Allen Print, 1902.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1902. Allen Print, 1903.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1903. Allen Print, 1904.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1904. Allen Print, 1905.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1906. Allen Print, 1907.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1909. Allen Print, 1910.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1913. Beverly Printing Co., 1914.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1918. Beverly Printing Co., 1919.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1919. Beverly, Printing Co., 1920.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1920. Pioneer Press, 1921.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1922. North Shore Printing Co., 1923.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1924. North Shore Printing Co., 1925.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1926. Deschamps Bros., 1927.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1931. N.A. Lindsey & Co., Inc., 1932.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1933. N.A Lindsey & Co., Inc., 1934.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1935. N.A. Lindsey & Co., Inc., 1936.
Beverly School Committee. Annual Report of the School Committee of the City Of Beverly, Mass. 1938. N.A. Lindsey & Co., Inc., 1939.
Cremin, Lawrence A. American Education: The Metropolitan Experience 1876 – 1980. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Reese, William J. The Origins of the American High School. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.
Tyack, David B. The One Best System: A History of American Urban Education. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974.