Education throughout the years seems to have been one of the greatest concerns of the people and around our school our community life has always centered. The first school in the township of Burns was held in an unoccupied log cabin built by Amos Foster on Section 22, about two and one half miles from Byron, later known as the Chaffee School. The first teacher was William Chaffee, followed by Andrew Huggins, who taught during the winter of 1838-39. The following summer several schools were taught in the township although the Districts were not organized until 1843. The first officers were: Freeborn Joselyn, moderator, and Joseph Joselyn, director.
Three months of school were held in the winter and four in the summer, each pupil being required to furnish one half cord of wood. The Town Board of School Inspectors met in the spring of 1840 and divided the entire township into districts with the exception of the Indian Reservation which was located in parts of Sections 5, 6, 7, & 8 in the Northwest part of the township. In 1842 the board met and apportioned the primary money as follows: District No. 3 (Byron) $8.64, District No. 5 (Chaffee) $6.72 and District No. 4 (Green) $2.88.
On November 14, 1842 a school meeting was called to meet at the Robert Crawford home, but because Mr. Crawford did not live in the District 1, for the benefit of which the meeting was being held, it had to be changed. On May 6, 1843 the school board addressed Mr. Crawford as follows: “Mr. Robert Crawford, you are hereby commanded to notify every qualified voter in District No. 2, either personally, or by leaving a written notice at his residence, that a school meeting will be held at the house of Ramah Cole on the 18th at one o'clock in the afternoon”. Soon afterward a log house was built and used until 1856 when the old Cole School was built at the corner of Durand and Cole Roads.
In September, 1848 District No. 1 voted to raise $75.00 to build a school which was completed the next year and later became known as the Haviland School. This building was later moved to Byron and became an annex to the Byron High School.
The Barnum District No. 8 was organized in 1854 and the school located on the northwest corner of Byron and Braden Roads.
Our local school history dates back to 1845 when the first building was erected at a cost of $200 and located on property on the northwest corner of Maple and Church streets. The first regular school meeting in the village was held December 6, 1843 in the Byron Hotel. Previous to this date there had been several terms of school taught in the homes of the villagers.
In 1865 a Union School costing $3500 and a primary building on the north side costing $800 was constructed on the northeast corner of Maple and Ann Streets. Both these buildings were sold and moved away in 1899, making way for a new brick structure. Work was started in the spring, grade pupils finished their school year in other buildings. Some classes were held in a store building, some in the ballroom of the Byron Hotel, a part of which is now the home of L.W. VanAlstine. Others were taught in the Byron Opera House, now the site of 220 Hamilton. The Opera House, later destroyed by fire, had been remodeled and enlarged from the old Presbyterian Church.
Byron High Union School (1865-1899)
Records show some ninth and tenth grade subjects being taught soon after 1879.
The old Haviland School from north of Byron which was moved to Byron after the consolidation and used for a first grade room with Alice Stoner Griffin as the teacher. Later it became a storage place for the horse drawn busses until they were disposed of. Again it became a classroom, then was moved back on the playground and used for tool storage. By 1944-45 our school had grown to such a capacity that it became necessary to have more room, so again the old Haviland School took another ride – this time to be remodeled and another room its size added to it to form the annex north of the main building. It was used for kindergarten and third grades, then as the band headquarters.
Byron High School (1914)
This brick structure consisted of two classrooms and two cloak rooms on the first floor for the first six grades, and two classrooms (one for the 7th and 8th grades, one for the high school) an office, a small Chemistry lab and a supply and telephone booth on the second floor. The basement consisted of a furnace room and playroom with a dirt floor. The morning, noon and recess bell was rung from the north cloakroom by means of a heavy rope.
The first record of a four year high school course being offered was in 1914. Although no 11th or 12th grade subjects were credited to pupils, there were forty eight enrolled in the upper four grades. Five full time teachers were employed with salaries ranging from $50 to that of the Superintendent which was $82 per month. At this time total enrollment was 101. Credits for eleventh and twelfth grade subjects were given for the first time in 1915.
During the years 1919-1921, A.T. Hagerman was employed as Superintendent at an annual salary of $1800. Through him the consolidation of Districts 1-3-5-8 was introduced. A mass meeting was held at the M.E. Church, a dinner served and many people from the surrounding communities listened to a speaker from Lansing as he talked on the advantages of consolidation.
In 1921 consolidation of the above districts was completed and the district bonded for $25,000 to build an addition on to the three story brick structure. The job was let to Oswald and Stahl from Alma, Michigan. Work was begun at 6:00 in the morning and ended at 6:00 at night with the exception of Saturday when they quit at noon so some of the men could get home for the weekend. The common laborer received forty cents an hour while the carpenters and brick layers received a little more. Great was the excitement around school while the building was going on and most of
the spare time at noon was spent watching the men at work and wondering just what it would look like when completed. The entrance to the high school rooms was by the fire escape and through a window. The youngsters who lived in town went home when not in class to make room for those who came in on the busses and had to remain the entire day. Sewing classes were held in the basement of the Methodist Church.
Byron High School, built in 1899, consolidated in 1921 and east addition built in 1923.
When the building was finished in 1923 there was an assembly room and commercial room on the second floor, two new classrooms on the first floor, two Home Economics rooms in the basement and the old play-lunch room became the boy's manual training room or shop.
In the spring of 1924 the different classes and rooms chose a portion of the school grounds to seed, care for, and beautify. When the grading was completed the grounds were dragged by Forest Arthur, Garland Ball and Fred Hibbard, who brought their teams and dragged, in with the clay, loads of black dirt. The grounds were then seeded, rolled and watered by the students. All the rooms sold magazines to earn the fifty dollars they had agreed to contribute toward the shrubbery. Plans for planting were studied and submitted by each group; the pupils having the best plan supervised their section. A committee composed of John Dyer, Fred Hibbard and Garland Ball were chosen to accompany Mr. Burt, the superintendent, to purchase shrubs from the Genesee County Nursery. A half day was taken for the planting of the shrubs which consisted of: five dozen Japanese Barberry, two dozen Spirea, one dozen Honeysuckle, one half Dozen Snowberry and four Boston Ivy. Nature did her part by furnishing a cool wet spring; the shrubs grew well and rapidly and still remained to beautify the old brick school until it was torn down in 1966 to make way for the new elementary building.
For the first time the school was placed on the accredited list in June 1924 and enrollment gradually increased. Pupils paying tuition increased from 9 in 1924 to 34 in 1928. This increase in tuition amounted to nearly $1900. The first State Aid money was received in August 1924, a sum of $3000, which we were to receive annually. The smith Hughes Law for Federal Aid in Agriculture and Home Economics made it possible for the school to receive the sum of $1285.48 in 1928, while the primary money amounted to around $3000. The cost of maintaining the school for this year was approximately $24,000. Nearly $4000 was spent on permanent improvements such as tables, laboratory equipment and books, and about $900 was invested in musical instruments. Enrollment had reached 226 of whom 136 pupils came from the country and 90 from the village. Tuition was $75 a year. After consolidation credit was first offered for Music, Typing and extra-curricular activities and Manual Arts and Home Economics had been introduced followed by a four year vocational agricultural course. Many of the farm boys specialized in certified beans or potatoes or in registered corn, hogs, cattle or poultry.
In 1925 Byron school had the enviable record of being first in the state in high yields of spuds raised by students on potato projects. The state record of 300 bushel per acre was broken by the production of better than 350 bushels by three boys, Stanley Ball, Roy Neathammer and Vernon Pratt. The Poland China hog project numbered eight registered sows and one boar. A sow was furnished to each boy who undertook the project without any cost to him and from the first litter of pigs he turned two of them over to the school and kept the remainder for himself. Most of the increase was disposed of to the local farmers.
Another accomplishment under the leadership of Mr. Burt, who headed the Byron School during a very successful period of expansion from 1923-1930 was the local school fair sponsored by the Agricultural and Home Economics departments. This attracted considerable interest in the community. The adjacent schools were urged to participate. A trophy cup, furnished by the business men of the town, was given to the school winning the most points in the exhibits. Poultry specialists, the Livingston County Agent and speakers from the State Department and College assisted in making this an interesting as well as an instructive event for the whole community. The district schools each furnished a part of the program for the evening and a ten dollar prize was offered to the school putting on the best number. This gave the surrounding area children an opportunity to participate in larger groups and helped to acquaint them with the Byron School. Pupils took charge of the fair, arranging exhibits, publicizing, announcing programs and introducing speakers, each selecting a part for which to be responsible. The expense was met largely through the sale of candy, popcorn and hot dogs sold by the student body. Rules and regulations were set up and sent to each of the district schools and to all the patrons in the community. After a period of four or five successful years the fair gradually gave way to other events, later to be revived by the P.T.A. as a hobby show which created enthusiasm for a couple of years.
The eighth grade banquet was another event that had its beginning in 1925 and was carried on for several years. Invitations were made by the Byron eighth graders and sent to the eighth graders and their teachers in the country schools asking them to be guests at the Byron School usually the first Friday after the county 8th grade examinations. A ballgame and track events were held in the afternoon with the banquet and program in the evening. Pupils were shown through the building, and simple experiments were performed which helped to create a desire for a high school education. The Home Ec. Girls served the banquet and the local eighth grade furnished the program.
For several years an eighth grade graduation was held and each year the eighth grade produced a play for the public. The high school plays were given in the Old Fisher Building. Here likewise basketball games and other social events were held. The proceeds from the plays were used to purchase something for the school, as a gift, in memory of that year's class. Later the town hall was used for all school activities until the high school gymnasium was erected. Money derived from plays came to be added to the class treasury to help defray the expenses of the senior trips, which were generally taken through the East just before school was out in the spring or immediately after graduation. A school bus, class sponsor or one or two teachers, a bus driver and a mechanic accompanied the group. They took much of their food, prepared most of their meals and stayed in tents.
In 1924 after some discussion between pupils and teachers it was decided to have a government by the pupils (first student council). One member was chosen from each of grades 7-8-9-10 and two from the 11th and 12th. The secretary was elected by the council. A constitution was drawn up by a committee and later accepted by the student body after having been read to the assembly three times and having been posted for five days. Later the council formulated a code of ethics which was adopted and followed for several years.
The demand for a school nurse grew out of the necessity of a physical inspection program. In 1926 the Board of Education employed a part time nurse, through the Michigan T.B. Association at a cost of $150 a year for a one day per month service. Vision and hearing tests were given, also physical inspection which included dental, adenoids, tonsils, glands, skin, eyes, throat and hair. The results were recorded on the accumulative records by three high school girls who helped the nurse each month. Each child in the first six grades was weighed monthly. All found more than 5 pounds underweight were given special information about food and rest and in some cases the home and mother visited. Each child was measured in September and January and his normal weight calculated. For each defect found the home was visited to try and determine the underlying cause. Parents were advised to contact their family physicians about treatment and if they could not afford medical care it was provided through state aid. Three tonsillectomies were arranged for at Ann Arbor through the County Poor Commission. First grade children were all given a light lunch in the middle of the forenoon and again in the afternoon, a project supervised by the Home Economics Department. Each month a health lesson was given in each room stressing phases of mental hygiene.
Residents of the Cole and Pink Districts voted in August 1949 to affiliate with the Byron Agricultural School. This same year a cinder block building 40' X 104' for which five mills had been voted, was erected to the east of the main building to house the shop and agricultural departments at a cost of approximately $14,000.The next fall two more classrooms were added on the west side of the cement block building which became two first grade rooms and later the Home Making Area.
During 1953 eight other school districts, the Boyd, Green, Williams, West Brick, Union Plains, Hearst , about half of the Graham and more than half of the Fuller annexed, more than doubling the size of the Byron District. The School became a class C school with an enrollment of approximately 525 and included property in Shiawassee, Livingston and Genesee Counties.
It had been understood that with these annexations a new elementary school would be necessary, so a study committee of 26 persons was appointed. This was composed of one person from each organization in the community and one from each school district. They met once a week and most of the people attended every meeting. They looked at other schools recently built and gathered all possible information to help make their decisions for a new building. This information was passed on to the voters and approved by a nearly three to one vote in June 1954. Completed in the summer of 1955 and in use in the fall were $260,000 worth of new school facilities, a new eleven room elementary building, office space adjacent to the already existing classrooms and a very impressive 90' X 117' gymnasium with laminated redwood formed arches above basketball court. The originally planned band room and two additional classrooms had to be eliminated after bids had been submitted due to the increase in the price of lumber.
A record turn out of 603 voters on April 3, 1962 approved a bond issue for $650,000 to build a new high school after such had been recommended by a citizen's committee. The farm of Russell Hibbard, in back of the water tower, was chosen as the spot and purchased for $10,000. Some of the rooms were completed for use by September, 1963, others moved into as they were finished. Dedication services were held November 3, 1963 from two to five with the school board and administration and their wives as hosts, the F.F.A. boys parking cars and the Future Teachers Club acting as guides throughout the building. This year the legal name of the school was changed to Byron Area Schools.
Our community continued to grow rapidly so the biggest news in Byron in 1966 was the passing of a $530,000 bond issue for constructing, furnishing and equipping a new elementary unit which would provide eighteen classrooms, two kindergarten rooms, a special ed room, a clinic, and four additional class rooms and a new drafting and general arts room to the high school. It was with saddened hearts that the community watched the old brick high school building being torn down in the fall of 1966 and the construction begin on the new elementary building to the west of the gym.
After several months study by a Citizens Advisory Committee they recommended the construction of a new Middle School Annex on the present high school site for the sixth, seventh and eighth grades, along with furniture and equipment for the new building. The total cost of the proposed project to be $1,535,000. This was approved by the voters in June 1972 and construction began in the fall. The dedication of the new building was held May 19th, 1974.
Byron High/Middle School Complex (2005)
A track and football field and stadium costing approximately $370,000 and built at the high school was dedicated on September 13, 1991.