West Iron County Public Schools is a consolidated system made up of the former Bates Township School, Iron River Public Schools, and the Stambaugh Township Schools. The district was consolidated in 1967. The school district encompasses the cities of Iron River, Caspian, Gaastra, and the townships of Bates, Iron River, and Stambaugh. There are approximately 560 square miles in the district, which requires a considerable amount of transportation. The current K- 12 enrollment as of Aug, 2021 is 850 students. All teachers in the West Iron County School District are highly qualified according to the standards set by the State of Michigan and the federal government’s No Child Left Behind.
The Board of Education conducts the educational program in a number of facilities located in the district.
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ACE High School History
The ACE High School , established in 1994, serves students from the West Iron County Public and Forest Park School Districts . Following the tenth commencement ceremony of 2004, ACE has a total of 87 graduates. The school was closed in 2006.
Middle School History
The history of the West Iron County Middle School begins with the history of the Iron River School System. In 1910 there were 137 pupils enrolled in the Iron River school district and by 1928 there were nearly 2,000. The first school in Iron River was erected in 1882. It was merely a log house on Genesee street where Selin’s Furniture Store is today. The log schoolhouse consisted of two rooms, one for the grade students and one for the high school students.
In 1892 the log schoolhouse was relocated to Cayuga street at the future site of the Central School with an east wing added to the building. In addition, space was rented near the present day Main Street Cafe. This space was used for kindergarten and first grade classes until it was destroyed by fire.
The first graduation class consisted of five pupils in 1893, and in 1894 the second graduating class consisted of eight pupils–all of which were girls. All those who wished to graduate were obliged to pass a third grade examination. In order to become a teacher, a person must attend a special review class in high school and then pass a county examination. Many times girls of fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen years of age became teachers.
On April 17, 1896 a program was given by the school in order to pay for a piano for the school. The program was given in the Town Opera House and many in the audience went away shocked at the “Hungarian Dancing Girl” who wore a skirt that came half way up to her knees!
In 1904 the Central school was built with the wings of the building being added in 1910. In 1902 the school building was two stories high. In the lower floor were three class rooms and a hall, and on the upper floor, four class rooms. Each room was used for one to three grades, and there was no kindergarten. A separate building some time later was built for kindergarten purposes.
An outdoor wood stairway with a railing was the only way of access to the upper story. In each room there was a large wood-box and a stove. The stoves were large, the type used in many lumber camps during the period, that took three to four feet length logs. Putting wood in the stoves was quite an event, for it took three or four boys to manage one log. The stoves were surrounded by fences on which were hung caps, coats, and mittens. The wood-box, which was filled from outside, was at the back of the room, and the teacher’s desk was on a platform.
The athletics of this time consisted of football and baseball. There was no coach, and all athletic equipment was bought by the boys. The school board assumed no responsibility for accidents and paid no expenses. When the team played away from home, the boys stayed with friends or members of the opposing team. Basketball was not played until 1905.
A spelling team competed with neighboring towns for the spelling championship. Sleigh rides were frequent affairs as well, and often sleigh ride parties were held in Crystal Falls or Florence.
In 1923 two annexes were built to the Central School and by 1925 congestion was so great that the seating pupils and the conducting of classes became a serious problem. It was October 27,1924 when the first attempt to build a new junior and senior high school for the Iron River Public Schools met with defeat at the polls. At the start of the 1925-26 school year, Iron River School Superintendent Byrns implemented half day sessions: There was no room for the students. The Board of Education put the question to the voters again in April of 1926. This time it passed: 282 yes to 195 no. An advisory committee for the new school was formed and by April 21 land was bought on the MacKinnon block in Iron River. On August 24 the bid of C.A. Anderson to build the new school was accepted at $197,775.00. An additional $30,000.00 was awarded to four other businesses for electrical work.
The dedication of the Iron River High School (pictured at the top of page) was held on February 22, 1928. Superintendent C.A. Pfeiffer was the chairmen of the proceedings. The High School band played an overture and the invocation was given by Reverend Marcus Brown. Greetings were extended by W.E. Culver, Iron River City; Matt E. Kosky, Iron River Township; President E.C. Tyler, Board of Education; D.H. Campbell, Advisory Board; Miss Pearl Windsor, High School Principal; and Hilmer Soldander, student representative. The High School Glee Club sang Song of India, and the dedicatory address was given by Professor G.E. Densmore of the University of Michigan. The program was closed by the audience singing America and with Reverend C.W. Erickson giving the benediction.
Source: Graphics and text were taken from: Frames For The Future: The Iron County Centennial Book, pages 210-215. Marcia Bernhardt, Editor; and from The Iron River High School Dedication Program with information compiled by the Iron River class of 1928.