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History of Secondary Education in North Branch

The history of the district has been one of growth and development. North Branch Area Schools boasts a secondary program that serves the needs of both vocationally oriented and college bound students. Test scores. academic honors, and athletic performances continue to underscore the theme of "Pride".

Schools came to North Branch in 1855 when local residents took steps to provide for the education of their children. The earliest school was housed in little more than a shanty and the teacher's salary and other expenses were paid by tuition fees.

Although the district was formally organized in 1856, it appears that little was done towards actually establishing a school until 1861. Miss Almeda E. Ballard (Mrs. A.E. Moore) was the first teacher in the organized district. By 1867. the enrollment of the school had grown to 76 students. Classes during this time were housed in a log building.

Beginning in 1869, there was a period of time when no public schooling was offered in North Branch. To fill the gap, Mrs. William O'Neil provided private instruction to students in her home. Also in that year residents of the area erected a new frame building that was opened for the fall term of the next school year.

This original frame building (located Just north of Mill Street on the west side of Jefferson Road) served as a schoolhouse until 1889 when the first brick and mortar building was opened for use. During the time this frame building was in use, the school was divided into grades one through ten (1883).

In 1914. the University of Michigan officially accredited the high school (the accreditation has remained in place ever since) and in 1989, the high school celebrated 75 years of accreditation.

High School classes were held in the original brick building until it was eventually torn down in 1935. For a period of time until the new high school building was constructed in 1936. classes were held in local churches. meeting halls, the theatre, empty business fronts. and any other location the district could find. In 1937 classes were once again in a single location with the completion of the new school (later renamed the Jefferson Elementary). The "new" North Branch High School had been built to include a gym on the South end of the building.Over the next few years, there were several changes and additions to the High School site. A shop building was constructed in 1938. which now serves as the district's maintenance garage. Classrooms were later added to the bus garage building and were used until the high school “on the hill” was built (1963). 

The entire community and many students worked to develop the athletic fields and provide lighting for the football and baseball fields. As the number of students in the district grew, the basement of the Jefferson building was excavated to provide additional classroom space. a music room and two additional classrooms were built, and a country school house was moved into town.

As this growth was taking place, the North Branch Board of Education had also consolidated the district beginning in 1945 and continuing through the early 60's. Although there were still several country schools within the district, just as many had been closed and students were being transported in to the village site. What we know as the North Branch Area School District is the result of this consolidation of the original district with several primary districts in the immediate area. The consolidation of country schools created a single district 156 square miles in size. By 1952 the district had 822 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade.

A new high school was built on the "hill" site in 1963 and occupied for classes during the 1963-64 school year. Through the early years, the entire student body could be seated in the bleachers on the north side of the gym. By the last couple of years of use. the bleachers on the north and south had to be used to scat the student body. Through this time frame, the Ruth Fox building was completed, four classrooms were added to the high school building, a couple of portable classrooms were added to the site, and development of the athletic fields took place. In November of 1991, the community decided that a new high school facility was needed.

The present high school opened in the fall of 1994 and houses grades 9 through 12. The building provided a high degree of adaptability and provided space for 800 students. The gym, auditorium, and cafeteria have been used to host a great variety of events for the school district and community. The old high school was converted to a middle school for grades 7 and 8, and the Ruth Fox was then converted to an upper elementary school.

In 2005. the community approved a bond proposal that provided additions to the high school, which were completed in 2007. The additional classrooms increased the student capacity. The main office was moved to the front of the building, and the technology was updated to include two new labs. In addition, the district built a new elementary school. renovated the middle school and Ruth Fox Elementary School.