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The history and events concerning the public schools of Buffalo form an interesting chapter in the records of Buffalo. The schools have always played a vital and central role in the community.
The schools of Buffalo date from the time of the early settlement. The schools were first organized pursuant to notice from the county commissioners on April 14, 1857. District records indicate that the number of "Scholars" in the district on December 31, 1857 was 17. In January of 1858, it was determined to build the first school house, a 20' by 24' log house. In 1860, the first school tax levy was approved, 50¢ per head on all male inhabitants of the district between the ages of 21 and 55.
By 1862 there were 60 students with an average daily attendance of 40 in three small school buildings, two of which were made of logs. In 1869 a new schoolhouse was built for a total cost of $595. By 1885, the Buffalo area had grown enough to build a new 4-room school, believed to be "ample for all time to come." In 1887 the village school became an official "independent school district."
Until 1892, the school was limited to grades 1-8. The class of 1895 was the graduating class from a recognized high school in Buffalo, and in 1903 Buffalo High School became accredited by the State of Minnesota. Graduates had to complete 16 credits over 4 years in such subjects as Latin grammar, German grammar, Elementary and higher algebra, Zoology, English composition and rhetoric, Plane geometry, Ancient history, Virgil or German literature, English history, English literature, and several others.
Building Room to Grow
Continuing growth had resulted in additions to the building in 1895 and 1902. These additions were financed by bond issue votes, although other votes in 1895 and 1900 were defeated. By 1908, overcrowding again required more space, and the voters approved a new brick high school. The state schools inspector ordered additional new construction in 1915 to accommodate the growing student population. Another bond issue was passed, adding much needed space to the high school.
The school district's buildings proved adequate until the 1930's when both elementary and high school crowding required additions. A bond issue was defeated in 1931 in the midst of the Great Depression. By 1935, times were improving and a bond issue was passed using a combination of Federal WPA money, tax payer bonds and money in the district's savings. For a total of $160,000, a modern new high school was erected with plenty of classrooms, band rooms, a library, modern kitchen and lunchroom, and a state-of-the-art combination auditorium/gymnasium. Parts of the old high school were remodeled to house elementary grades. Much of this 1936 building remains today as part of the Discovery Center building. In 1962 a large addition was made to the high school building. Another gymnasium, locker rooms, 10 classrooms, a new band room and offices were added. In what many thought was the final chapter in growth for Buffalo High School, a $2.54 million bond issue was passed in 1969 to build a new high school on the north edge of town with the old high school becoming a junior high. The new building opened in 1971.
But numbers continued to grow. In 1974, voters turned down a proposed new junior high school and elementary schools in Hanover and Montrose. A part of the high school was remodeled to make room for 150 elementary students. In 1977, a revised plan did pass the voters and new elementary schools were built in Hanover and Montrose with major remodeling done at the junior high and high school. The old 1908 and 1915 parts of the junior high (old high school) were torn down. A 1987 bond issue allowed more additions to the high school and also to the district's elementary school buildings.
Once again, growth took its toll with overcrowding at all levels of the district as the communities of Buffalo, Hanover and Montrose took on a suburban feel in the early 1990's. A $30 million bond issue was passed and a new high school was again built on the edge of town, this time to the east, opening in January, 1997. The old (1971) high school was remodeled into a grades 6-8 middle school and additions and remodeling to the elementaries along with a grade configuration change to grades K-5 elementaries made room for students at all grade levels.
BHM Schools has over 5,800 students in grades K-12. The district includes six elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, one alternative high school and one transitions program. Northwinds Elementary was added to the district in September 2006 after the success of a 2003 bond referendum. The bond also allowed for additions to the high school, middle school, Hanover Elementary and Montrose Elementary.
Much of the historical information was taken from Marcia Paulson's book on the history of Buffalo. Paulson retired from her position as Buffalo High School's Media Generalist.