Three-Room School House
Munster public schools have come a long way since the days of the three-room brick school built on the northeast corner of Calumet and Ridge in 1875. Enrollments were small, as little formal education was needed for many professions. According to records, fifty students or fewer were in attendance during any year before 1920. But even then, administrators of the Munster school recognized the value of music and art in the curriculum. These subjects were offered in addition to reading, writing, arithmetic, and a course titled Physical Culture. As few people needed an education beyond eighth grade, Munster schoolís curriculum ended there also. Students who continued their studies usually did so at Hammond High.
By 1913, the school board decided it was necessary to build a new school. A ten-acre site between Columbia and Calumet on the south side of Ridge Road (now the site of the Center for Performing and Visual Arts) was chosen and construction began in 1914. The formal dedication of the new Munster School in March, 1915, included speeches, songs, piano solos and even a student pantomime (according to Trustee info, this was its name). There were still only eight grades, but they now had four classrooms, a library, and an auditorium. The new building served the community beyond the traditional classes: a commercial school met in the evenings between 1917 and 1921. The old building was used as Munster's town hall from 1915 until 1920, when it was demolished to make way for the building standing there today.
As enrollments grew, the new school was expanded and remodeled to meet the town's needs. A wing of classrooms and a gymnasium were built in 1928. In the early 1940s more classrooms and a 60-seat basement auditorium were added. By this time there were 12 classrooms. The school was renamed Lanier School in 1950.
Eads and Elliott
These additions were not enough to accommodate the town's growth for long. Eads was built on Harrison Avenue in 1948 for students living west of Calumet Avenue. In 1957, six classrooms and a kindergarten were added to the existing nine rooms. Elliott School, on White Oak Avenue, opened in 1952. Its classrooms looked out on open farmland. In 1955 and 1965 more classrooms, a library, and gymnasium were added.
To address the need for a modern facility for junior high students, construction began on a t-shaped building with 14 classrooms, shop and laboratory facilities, and a cafeteria. Wilbur Wright Junior High opened in 1960, and Lanier became an elementary school. Wilbur Wright's first addition was built in 1963 and included two lecture halls and a resource center. Wilbur Wright changed from junior high to middle school in 1972. when a new building was constructed just north of the high school in 1972. The open floor plan included areas for math and science; social studies, language arts, and a resource center; unified arts (home economics and shop); and an area designed specifically for sixth grade students. The old Wilbur Wright building was incorporated into the high school.
Munster High School
In the early 1960s, the town seriously began to consider building a high school, as there were still no facilities for students beyond grade 10. By 1963, approximately 500 Munster students were attending Hammond High or Tech while others commuted to Griffith.
Facilities for 1200 students and an athletic complex with pool were planned, but the high cost (more than 6.2 million dollars) met with considerable opposition from the public. Designs were pared down and construction began on acreage on Columbia Avenue in June, 1965. The doors opened to students in September 1966 and by early 1967, the auditorium, swimming pool, music facilities, and administrative offices were in use. Senator Birch Bayh spoke to the 187 seniors at Munster High School's first commencement.
The high school was remodeled in 1973/1974, and again in 1979. Improvements included more classrooms, administrative offices, physical education, science lab, business education, and industrial arts. The fieldhouse was remodeled, as was the pool area. Art and music facilities were expanded and improved. Unfortunately, a fire in 1980 destroyed a portion of the north building. Renovations to repair damage included a resource center, speech and debate area, lecture halls, and office space.
Growing enrollments necessitated the building of yet another elementary school. Frank H. Hammond's 25 classrooms, auditorium, and learning center were constructed on Fran-Lin Parkway in 1969.
Closing of Lanier
As enrollments dipped in the late 1970s, the decision was made to close the outdated Lanier School. It closed in 1980, leaving the Town of Munster with modern educational facilities: three elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school.
Renovations for the 21st Century
To accommodate current enrollments of approximately 1,200 high school and 800 middle school students better, Munster High School and Wilbur Wright Middle School have each undergone extensive renovation, innovation, and improvement. As you tour Munster High School, you'll notice wider hallways and a more spacious feeling. Touring Wilbur Wright Middle School reveals less dramatic but welcome changes to classrooms, offices, and public areas. Both are renewed schools and beckon students to come in and learn about science, learn about language, learn about life.
Munster High School has been reconfigured into departments, much the way many universities are laid out. The north building is now an academic wing, housing social studies, English, foreign languages, speech/drama, and science. Three science labs and a 400-square-foot greenhouse await young chemists, biologists, and physics/earth science students. The south building houses math, business, industrial technology, art and photography, and home economics.
Art and music continue to be significant components of the education offered to Munster students. The art area at the high school has been designed as a studio, with portfolio storage space, individual work stations, centralized audiovisual access, and a ceramics room. A direct exit enables young artists opportunity to work outdoors.
To give the orchestra, choir, and many other school groups a showcase for public performances, the auditorium has been reconfigured into a professional performing center In addition to the larger lobby and restrooms, a fly loft has been added for scenery changes. Backdrops are no longer wheeled on and off stage and are moved up and out of sight. Larger changing rooms and new audience seating complete the auditorium renovation.
Other areas have been improved, also. The high school cafeteria has been transformed into a food court with booths and tables. Kitchen upgrades also include new freezers and coolers, office space for food service staff, and teachers lounge. In the gym, the boy's and girl's locker rooms have also been reconfigured. The changes include private showers, a training room, and more functional office space. Administration and guidance offices have doubled in size, allowing room for conference areas and an expanded nurse's facilities.
The media center, once known as the library, has been totally reconfigured. In addition to printed books and periodicals, students have access to the Internet's vast resources, videos, and other audio-visual information. Videos, CD Rom disks, audio tapes, and other media housed in the media center may be accessed in the media center or in individual classrooms by using the centers retrieval system.
The many changes made at Wilbur Wright have transformed it into a new school also. An addition on the east side of the school houses administrative offices and the nurse's facility, separating them from the guidance department. Every classroom has been refinished with new floors, ceilings, and lighting.
The middle school's library, now also a media center, has been transformed from an open area into a more enclosed and functional learning center. Like the high school, it contains a large variety of printed materials and full Internet access. Sixteen VCRs, CD players, laser disk players, cable and satellite access ensures students have access to information beyond books.
The kitchen is twice the size as before the renovation. Now full service (portions of the meals were previously prepared at the high school), serving lines have been reconfigured to be more student-friendly.
A number of changes are not apparent upon a casual inspection, but make the schools more cost-efficient and safe. Plumbing and electrical systems have been upgraded. Smoke detectors and alarms, sprinkler systems, and video surveillance systems have all been installed. A high efficiency boiler system, located in the energy center, provides heating and cooling for both the high school and middle school. Mechanical systems are controlled by computerized monitoring, allowing problems to be quickly traced and corrected.
As the schools were redesigned, the need for increased communication and handicapped accessibility was addressed. Each public restroom in both schools is handicapped accessible, as are the nurses facilities. With the new IP phone system, every classroom system-wide has a telephone and every teacher has a voice mailbox.
Other changes include the new 100-space parking lot in the front of the high school and 40 additional spaces in the west lot. The south (student) lot has been reconfigured to improve traffic flow. New landscaping completes the renovations.
Munster schools have been renovated and updated many times through the years. The physical changes only hint of the technology changes made to keep abreast of current needs. As the nation has changed from a manufacturing-based economy to an information-based one, our schools have undergone many transformations. Chalkboards may still be found in classrooms, but are augmented by video displays, Internet access, and computer software designed to reinforce material presented by the teacher. In addition to letters written to pen pals, e-mail messages may be exchanged with others half a world away. Science and computer-based business classes help prepare students for careers their grandparents never dreamed of.
One thing that has not changed is the community's strong support of the schools. The land deeded to the Town by the Lions in the early 1970s became Community Park and is used cooperatively and extensively by the School Town and the Park Department. Lions, Rotary, Booster Club, Alumni Association, Munster Education Foundation, PTO, and other groups and individuals contribute time and funds to enrich our students educational experiences.
These partnerships bolster the already high quality of a Munster Schools education. As we prepare for the next century, our teachers and support staff will continue to guide and shape our students lives.
Source: Town on the Ridge A History of Munster, Indiana by Lance Trusty