When the reservoir came to town, it pushed a huge portion of West Boylston’s residents and businesses elsewhere. Also affected by the floodwaters were the town’s numerous schools. Today, West Boylston has one elementary school. In the late 1890s, there were over ten primary schools located across town. Each mill district had its own schoolhouse, which was easier for transportation and provided a better student to teacher ratio.
As construction on the reservoir continued, more and more schools began to close down. The list of schools below also marks when a school closed. In 1900, Lower Factory Primary closed. That school taught children of mill workers and people who lived near the factories. Three more schools closed the next year. The year after that, 1902, two more schools closed, leaving the town with two of its original three intermediate schools and six of its original eleven grammar and primary schools.
As townspeople lost their homes and sought work in nearby towns, the remaining residents were left with fewer schools. In 1898, there were 511 students enrolled in West Boylston schools. By 1903, there were only 243, a true testament to just how rapidly the town’s population declined as the reservoir swamped its industrial and political center.
A full list of the primary schools and schoolhouses is posted below, as well as a photograph of the Northeast Intermediate School.
Here are some high schools of West Boylston's past.
The black and white photograph shows the old West Boylston High School which was situated in the valley and was knocked down to make way for the reservoir. It had that "classic schoolhouse" look to it and had a bell tower.
The colored drawing is a postcard depicting the "newer" high school, located at the corners of Goodale and Crescent Streets. This high school eventually became an elementary school called the Goodale Street School and was torn down in 1983 despite public outcry.
Ever wonder what high school was like over a century ago? Were there still social hierarchies which pitted jocks against nerds? Did freshmen fear the seniors whenever they walked through the halls? We can't answer those questions, but we can share some fun statistics and class schedules thanks to our historical collection of School Committee Reports dating back to the 1870s.
Here are some statistics from West Boylston High School in September 1897. The school only had 53 students and 3 teachers. Take a look at the numbers of students per class year--the number dwindles the higher the grade. While the Freshman class boasted 23 students, the Seniors only had 7. Many students dropped out to work or start families. Likely, the seven remaining Seniors were those who wanted to attend universities.
It's also important to note that there were many students who did not attend high school at all. Many children were already working in factories or in other trades.
There are statistics on average age and residency of pupils. These stats give us a fascinating look into high school in the 1890s in West Boylston.
If you were a high school student in 1897 West Boylston, what classes would you take? Luckily, the Beaman Memorial Public Library has school committee records dating back nearly 150 years. Below is a class schedule from the Spring 1897 term at West Boylston High School. Here are some interesting things to note:
While this schedule is 120 years old, its subjects are familiar. Most public schools offer math, science, social sciences, foreign language, and English writing and reading classes so students have a well-rounded education. Public education has been a vital part of American history, providing information on numerous topics to generations of children of all backgrounds.