by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
Built in 1925 at a cost of $75,000, Grain Valley’s second brick school housed both the high school and elementary grades until 1954. At that time, it became the Junior and Senior High.
That continued to be the case until 1969 when patrons approved a $260,000 bond to complete Phase I of a new high school directly behind and west of the 1925 building. Phase II was completed in 1974 when patrons said “yes” to a $150,000 bond.
Students remained in that building until 1994, when the high school moved to Eagles Parkway. If you’ve been reading this column you know the senior high was moved to this location upon completion of Phase III. The traditional classrooms in Phases I & II were used for the middle school until specialized classrooms could be added for Home Economics, Industrial Arts, Fine Arts and a gymnasium.
Since moving to the Sni-A-Bar location there have been three major additions in 2003, 2013, and the current construction. These additions have added the auditorium, the Allen Lefko Business Center and the current Fine Arts wing for art, vocal and instrumental music and a new library/media center.
The original $75,000 building housed 88 high school students in 1933 (plus the elementary grades). When I graduated in 1964 there were 143 students in the high school and an additional 70-75 junior high students. We had 17 teachers and administrators.
Because the floor tiles arrived too late to complete the special design for the first-grade classroom, my second-grade class was the first to move into the elementary school in 1954. We were also the last class to use the gymnasium in the 1925 building.
I have plenty of memories in that old gymnasium from junior and senior plays, music concerts, basketball games, pep rallies, and assemblies to proms and graduation ceremonies. It was where the Michigan State fight song got new words written by Diane Harmon (Class of ‘63) was first played as the GVHS Fight Song in 1962. It was also the community center for all kinds of events like carnivals and community theater.
Every class raised money throughout high school. Some was spent each year to build our Homecoming float, but most of it was spent during our junior year to decorate for prom and pay for the dinner served in the school cafeteria. Before Grain Valley had a cafeteria, the junior class mothers prepared the meal, mostly in their homes and partly in the Home Economics room. It was served in the school library on the second floor!
As seniors, we continued to raise funds for our senior trip. The morning after prom, the seniors would load into a school bus (with no air conditioning) for a week-long trip to the Ozarks. My class went to Scott Valley Dude Ranch in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
Today, over 1350 students attend GVHS in a building and sport facilities that are approaching $23,500,000. What was true for the citizens of Grain Valley in 1906 still holds true today. And so, as I conclude this series, I will end with the final statement from the first article for the Valley News on April 4, 2019.
“While the Grain Valley School District is growing and changing rapidly in the new millennium, what hasn’t changed is the commitment to make education a priority for the children of our community.”
Pictured above: First basketball team in 1913. Games were played at the Royal Playhouse at the corner of Walnut and Main Street. Pictured below: Grain Valley High School 1945 band with band director Mr. Phil Turner of Turner Music Co. in Independence. Photo credit: Grain Valley Historical Society
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