| Early History of the Baldwinsville Central School District
|For almost 200 years, the education of young people in the Baldwinsville area has been of great importance and concern to residents. The first schoolhouse in the village was established around 1813-14 on West Oneida St., and was referred to as the “old red” schoolhouse. Several other schoolhouses were in existence, including McHarrie School, named for the area’s first settler. This school, built in 1827, was situated on the corner of Downer and Canton Streets in the village, and was basically a log cabin. Sometimes an area school was just a room located in one of the more spacious homes.
The McHarrie School was utilized until about 1845 when the “white” school opened. In 1846 the North Side Intermediate and Primary School replaced the red schoolhouse. It was at the corner of Elizabeth and Virginia Streets and was utilized until 1923. In 1865 South Side Primary and Intermediate School was opened, an appropriate name due to its location on the south side of the Seneca River, which bisects the village. This school stood until sometime in the 1950s, when it had to be demolished. Today residents enjoy McHarrie Park at the site of the former school.
The modern concept of a school district did not exist in the early days of the area. Consequently, there were many school districts in one town. At one point, around 1835, the Town of Van Buren had 18 districts that served about 900 students in total. The town of Lysander had several districts as well. In 1864, the state passed legislation allowing for the creation of a union free school district. At this time district no. 2 of Lysander and district no. 18 of Van Buren were combined into one district called the Baldwinsville Union Free School District. The first Board of Education for the area was also established. Members of the first Board were James Frazee, John P. Shumway, Abel H. Toll, Henry Y. Allen, Silas H. Nichols, and Payn Bigelow. L.H. Cheney was appointed principal and superintendent.
In 1867 Baldwinsville Academy opened. This high school was located on Elizabeth Street. Several additions were built on to the original building, one in 1906 and one in 1923. After the addition in 1923, the Academy had the distinction of being the first building in the county to house a gymnasium and an auditorium. This was of great benefit to students. The Academy was eventually turned into an elementary school called Elizabeth Street School, which closed in June of 1981. The building was sold to the Word of Life Assembly of God church, which still occupies the building.
By the early 1950s, consolidation of schools in the area took place, and the district as it is known today was formed from schools located in the towns of Lysander and Van Buren. The area of Baldwinsville continued to experience growth and development, creating the need for more space to accommodate the growing student population.
In 1952, Baldwinsville Academy and Central School, now called Charles W.Baker High School, opened its north wing to elementary school students. The high school graduating class of 1953 attended school at the Academy on Elizabeth Street, but held their commencement ceremony in the new high school building. The first graduating class to attend school in the building now known as Baker High School was the class of 1954. The school was named for Charles W. Baker, who had been a teacher and an administrator with the district for many years. Over the last 50 years the school has undergone several renovations to provide students with the best possible physical environment conducive to the learning process.
Van Buren Elementary School was constructed in 1955. It has also undergone several renovations over the years. The student population continued to swell, and in 1957 Elden Elementary School was opened to provide more space. It was named in honor of Harry Elden, who was a teacher and an administrator.
In 1963 McNamara Elementary School and Palmer Elementary School opened their doors for the first time. McNamara was named for teacher Catherine McNamara, and Palmer was dedicated to L. Pearl Palmer, a teacher, noted historian, and local history author. The last elementary school to be built, Reynolds, opened in 1965, bringing the total number of elementary schools in the district to five. Reynolds was dedicated to Mae Reynolds, who had been a teacher in the district. Durgee Junior High School, dedicated to Theodore Durgee, a district teacher and administrator, was constructed in 1959 and Ray Middle School, named for district superintendent Donald S. Ray, was built in 1974. Over the years all of the school buildings in the district have been renovated to meet the ever-changing needs of a growing student population.