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The History of York High School

Last Updated on June 19, 2007 (More to Come)


On this page an attempt will be made to follow the history of York High School from its earliest development until the present.

SECTION I (1889 - 1930)

Section I is taken from a re-dedication of York High School speech by
Gilman Moulton on November 25, 1930

At the close of the last school year York High School completed forty-one years of its history.

The first action taken by the Town of York relative to the founding of a high school was in 1889.

The fifteenth article in the warrant for the annual town meeting of that year reads:

To see if the town will vote to comply with Section 28th and the seven following sections of Chapter Eleven of the Revised Statutes of Maine in order to have a free high school in York.

The warm debate of this article brought forth many decided arguments pro and con. To the question of one doubter as to the benefits to be derived from such a school, an enthusiastic advocate of the measure replied very admirably: "A high school in this town will be of inestimable help to your children and mine when grown up to beworth to themselves and the world far more than you are, or than I am." Finally an appropriation of $500 was voted. $250 was received from the State.

The first term of this school, the spring term, was held in the lower hall of the Town Hall. There were 25 pupils with an average attendance of 22 during the term of nine weeks. The principal was Clarence W. Smith, a graduate of Bates College. Mr. Smith had always demonstrated to the school officials of York his ability as a teacher, having taught the Village grammar school during the preceding winter. He was a live teacher whose influence was felt and respected. He had to plan all the work and teach all the classes. He was the apparatus, the total equipment, the factotum of the school.

The fall term was held in the schoolhouse at Scotland and the winter term in the schoolhouse at Cape Neddick. In 1890 the same conditions prevailed as in the preceding year. During these two years a different principal had charge of the school in each of the six terms. There was an average attendance of twenty-two pupils, nearly all of whom attended the school only when it was in session in his section of the town.

In 1893 an appropriation of $250 was made, and the school was held for a whole year in the old Christian Church near York Corner. For a time the school was called after the name of the owner of the building, "The Grant Free High School," a misnomer which became evident to the memorial trusting citizens when the owner charged the town an annual rent of $40. In 1894 the town once more, and happily for the last time, refused to raise money for the school. Each year from 1895 to 1901 inclusive, $500 was appropriated with the exception of the year 1899 when a balance from the preceding year made it unnecessary to raise a larger sum than the $250 which was appropriated. The school continued to occupy the old church until 1898 when better accommodations were provided by the renovation and enlargement of the Village school building. Here it remained until it moved into its present quarters in the fall of 1902.

The warrant for the annual town meeting of 1900 contained the following article: "To see if the town will appropriate a sum of money to build a building for the high school or take any action thereon, By request of Edward C. Cook and six others." After due discussion the motion to raise $3,000 was amended to $10,000 and carried. A committee consisting of James T. Davidson, Edward S. Marshall and John C. Stewart, together with the members of the school board, Jasper J. Hazen, Charles N. Junkins, and Nathaniel H. Shattuck, and the superintendent of schools, Edward C. Cook, was appointed to take the matter in hand. At a special town meeting in April of the same year a lot was selected, but the committee realizing that $10,000 wouldn't pay for the lot and erect a building adequate to the needs of the town, deferred further action until the annual town meeting when an additional appropriation of $5,000 was made. With a $3,000 lot to pay for, the committee readily saw that the fund was still insufficient to do what they believed the town truly demanded. However, a contract was made for the building of a schoolhouse, the completion of which required the town to raise another $10,000 at the march meeting in 1902.

The architect of the building was F.C. Watson of York, and the contractor and builder, A.T. Ramsdell of Dover, a native of York. Work on the building was begun the first of September, 1901, and on June 12, 1902, it was formally turned over to the town completed and ready for occupancy at the opening of the fall term.

As a result of the sagacity of the building committee, the frequent and admirable discussions by "The Transcript", and the good sense of the town, a structure was erected at the dedication of which W.W. Stetson, State Superintendent of Schools, remarked, "Without exception York has one of the finest high school buildings in the state."

For nearly a generation that building served well its purpose. From it has gone 471 of our youth bearing proudly the diploma which they earned amid the inspiring environment under its roof. But the time arrived when the growth of the school in pupils, teachers and curriculum necessitated a more commodious and up-to-date structure.

The schools of York have always had their champions whose appeals to the people have resulted generally in a liberal appropriation by the town for the support and advancement of its educational system. Way back in 1864 the school committeemen, John A. Sweet, Washington Junkins, and Samuel E. Payne, wrote in their annual report, "The Committee would respectfully call the attention of certain Districts to their school-houses; doubtless most of the people feel that the Town debt is so much that they cannot think of building new houses; but can investment be made more free from taxation? In conclusion let us beg leave to say, that under the existing circumstances of our country, the only inheritance we can permanently leave to our children and posterity, is what we can put into their heads, and not in their pockets."

Were these three staunch and far-seeing friends of education here tonight how they would rejoice, as does every thinking man and woman of this town, in completion of this beautiful and substantial structure dedicated to the developing of true and noble manhood. What a splendid monument bearing evidence to all eyes that the citizens of Old York are alive to the importance of providing modern educational facilities for its youth.

Along with the physical growth of the school has marched the intellectual. The course of study has been expanded and enriched from time to time. Three courses are now offered; college preparatory, general of scientific and commercial. For a number of years the school has been on the list of "approved schools" from which students are admitted to certain colleges on certificate.

In 1899 the first class, consisting of two members, was graduated. The total number of graduates is 477, forty-eight of whom have graduated from college, and eleven are now in college, there being four in the University of Maine, two in Bowdoin, one in Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one in Springfield, one in Colby, one in Jackson and one in Wheaton. Many of the graduates have received normal school or business school diplomas.

The school now numbers 116 pupils. Besides the six regular teachers, there is a special teacher for music, one for domestic science, and one for manual training.

Thus from the seed sown in 1889 and nurtured amid the storm and the sunshine of four decades, has spring up and developed the institution whose salutary influence is showing itself in no unmistakable manner throughout the town. We are all justly proud of our high school. Let us leave this place with this feeling stimulated by the sentiments born of the occasion. Let us appreciate more keenly than ever how vitally necessary it is to the welfare of the Town of York that our educational system must not stand still, must not retrograde, must progress.


SECTION II (1930 - 1978)
Section II is taken from a research project in Political and Legal Studies by
Matthew Wagner Class of 2007

The start of the 1929-1930 school year witnessed a very different school than in 1889. The school had changed radically in the last ten years alone. The high school got its first set of reference books, York athletic program began in 1923 with football, basketball, baseball, tennis and track; Cross Country started in 1928 when there were not enough boys for the football team. An electric bell was installed in 1925; even 1-2 hours of homework did not start until 1927. Outside York High school a lot else was going on: the war to end all wars had just ended, the car were becoming popular thanks to Mr. Ford, and the roaring twenties came to a screeching halt right as the school year was getting underway.


Yet, surprisingly, while the country shut itself down the thirties marked a period of growth at York High School. At the start of the century York High School was still a small three story brick building on Organug Road with no auditorium or gym. If you look closely at York Middle School, past all the renovations you can see the original build on the far left underneath the bell tower. After years a cramped classrooms and dim electric lights that must have made the school feel like a cave the high school got a much needed expansion. In 1931 the doors on a new gym, auditorium and classrooms swung open to receive a student body of just 150 students. The rest of the century marked even more growth at York High school, a flag pole was erected in 1932, hot lunch was served for the first time in 1934, in 1935 the school got a parking lot to go along with its new building, a concession was set up at basketball games in 1936 and a curtain was put up over the stage in the auditorium; finally bleachers were installed in the gym in 1937. Of course there was more than just physical growth at York High School, as more and more students began enrolling they were met with newer challenges and activities. In 1933 the school day was lengthened by one hour, students took the first standardized test in 1935, a school band was started in 1938 and student council and Cross Country (for the second time) started up in 1939.


York High School continued to grow into the forties, by 1942 the school had already outgrown the still new building. With 257 students enrolled, the school couldn’t wait any longer for a new building. The school day was split up into two sections, half of the student body went to school in the morning and the other half went in the afternoon. This two session day ended in 1944 with the opening of yet another addition to the existing building. Busses also started their routes in 1944, another funny sight at York High School for the first time in 1944 were seventh and eighth graders which because of the new build had been moved to the high school. York ended out the century with a bang, in 1949 Cross Country were state champions, drivers ed started and the school year was extended to 180 days.


Nothing was ever big enough for York, in less than ten years York High School had again outgrown its building. In 1951 two more classrooms opened up but it wasn’t enough. In 1952 the high school went back to two session days until more rooms opened after Christmas. Still the student body continued to grow with every year. In a building meant for just 400 people, 447 students somehow managed to fit in 1959. Lucky the very next year seventh and eight grades were moved out of the building and the number of students dropped to 270.


With the growth of York High School seemingly squelched for the moment the sixties took hold of the school. The school began to expand academically. German was the first foreign language to be taught in 1961 along with the start of adult education. Next was calculus which started in 1962. Work study began in 1965, surprisingly art finally started in 1966 the same year the first calculator was brought to York High School. Then again with growth and expansion. In 1963 a Junior high was opened up and the freshman class was transferred there. Two sessions started again even with only three grades at the school. A product of the sixties the first Drug and Alcohol Abuse course was taught in 1968. York High School closed out the sixties with the addition of a familiar face. Mr. Watters started teaching at York in 1968, at the end of the 2007 school year that would make an impressive 39 years of teaching at York High School and still strong.


Not to far behind, Mr. Clark began teaching in 1971 which makes 36 years at York. To no ones surprise York High School continued to grow beyond its walls, again maximizing the buildings capacity of 400 students in 1973. This in no way hindered York’s student body, with girls filed hockey starting in 1971, girls Cross Country and boys ski team in 1974, golf and cross country skiing in 1974, and stage band in 1975. If 447 students in 1959 was bad, it was desperate in 1976 York High School had over 500 students enrolled. In 1976 and 77 York High School added three more teachers you might recognize, Mr. Southard who teaches at the middle school now, Mr. Phipps and Mr. Cole. Finally York High School got what it needed, its current building on Long Sands Road opened up in 1977. In 1978 York High school had a lot to celebrate besides a still new school, it was graded one of the top schools in Maine, hockey was offered through the York Youth Hockey Program and Kathy Calo a York High School student captured the Junior Olympic Javelin title. 1978 was also the year our principal Mr. Stevens started working here.

SECTION III (1979 - 2008)

Section III is taken from a research project in Political and Legal Studies by
Dervishian, Dayna Class of 2008

Both the new building and the new principal brought a much needed change to York High School . Starting from this point on York would revamp its entire physical and internal approach to education. Between a forever changing curriculum and fluctuating list of requirements for both students and teachers, the high school would develop into the extremely successful educational resource that it is today.

Enrollment in the early 1980’s started off small, but only continued to grow into the 1990’s. In 1980 the school had a reported 582 students, but anticipated that there would be a decrease in enrollment. From 1981 to the spring of ’84 the enrollment rates in the high schools hovered around the area of 500. Although some years brought more students then others, the decreased enrollment rates were consistent with the larger senior classes and smaller freshmen classes. Sanford Vocational students also affected the enrollment rates in the early eighties as well. In the spring of ’84 the enrollment swelled from 496 students to 538 students. Until 1990 enrollment would continue to rise and stay near 600.

The eighties also brought on an entirely new change in classes and requirements. In 1980 the courses of American History and Prep for Citizenship were added, and are still present today in the school. The newly found and developing technology also influenced course structure. After test driving one of the first computers, the school began to discuss a computer curriculum to be taught to all students. Along with this the school added in Basic Biology (1981), Physical education requirements (1981), Freshman Health curriculum (1983), Business and Computer curriculum (1987), Project Adventure (1987), Advanced Placement American History, Advanced Political Studies, Honors Humanities, Honors Classical Heritage, and Honors Classical Literature (1987). In addition to these courses graduation and grading requirements were both altered. In 1986, after a much pursued attempt, the idea of adopting a weighted grading system was finally pushed for. Courses began to be weighted on a scale of one to four. Those students participating in harder classes would receive more for their hard efforts. Also, in 1986 the state adopted a new graduation requirement pushing for a Fine Arts requirement and an extra push for computer proficiency.

York ’s sports teams and their facilities also received much improvement over the years. The football team finished first in the SYSSA in 1980 and the year after Girl’s softball won the Class C state Championship. During this time a flag pole, speakers, and water were all added to the football field through funding. In 1983 Boys tennis won their 4th consecutive tennis championship, and girl’s field hockey enjoyed their best season since the introduction of the sport to the school. In 1983 the Recreation Department donated a new softball field and school district funds were used to renovate the field hockey field. By the year 1984 nearly 200 different students were participating in scheduled events. In this same year Boys tennis won the Class B championship and Girls tennis were runners up. Soccer added their first ever JV team, and the football players got to enjoy the completely rebuild football field. In 1985 York High School claimed three State Championship trophies: boys tennis, girls tennis, and boys track. The late eighties also brought York many different achievements to be proud of, one of the most honorable being the win Soccer brought by winning the Western Maine Championship.

York also made some beneficial changes to the way it runs things internally. In 1980 the school was awarded a federal grant to establish a Co-Operative Education program. This was put in place to match students with their related job experience, further preparing them to be ready for the real world. In 1983, an SAT prep course was offered for the first time, and nearly 100 students attended. In 1984, students who had taken the SAT prep course reportedly increased their scores by an average of 52 points, proving that the school was providing a useful resource for education. By 1985, 60% of the school took the SATS and nearly 65% of the students graduated into colleges and universities. The school also began to considering providing a program to deal with alcohol, drugs, and highway safety which was to be funded by the state. In 1984, Yorkwise was formed, a group that is still present in today. In 1986, Y.O.R.K.W.I.S.E already had a brilliant list of accomplishments, one of the most favored by the students being project graduation. This provided a place for graduating students to go after graduation that would be Chem-free. The night included a variety of fun things for students to do, all funded by Y.O.R.K.W.I.S.E. By 1987, the school had to switched to an “on-line” perspective of teaching, The library was fully automated by catalogue, and the school had also purchased SIMS software to programs all scheduling, grades, attendance, and student information. Improvements in technology would remain popular all through the late eighties and nineties.

The nineties brought many improvements of already existing practices taking place at the high school. In 1990 York High School was awarded a certification of merit from the Commissioner of Education and the Maine Drug Free School Recognition Program because of Y.O.R.K.W.I.S.E and their efforts. The Drug Free Schools Commission also awarded the district $17,000 to help offset the cost of the schools contract with YorkHospital (which provides the full time counselor).

The nineties also brought much needed construction for the school. In the late eighties spaces were tight, and an appropriate educational experience could not be given due to close quarters. Although money was extremely tight in 1992, the school tried to spend wisely. They spend money to retrofit lights in the hallways in an attempt to cut energy costs. They also added much needed ventilation in the Social Studies area of the building by adding two windows. Dramatic increases in population in the late nineties also led to a need for construction. In the year 1998 two new addition were added onto the building. By 1999, the two wings were finished and the additions of the brand new English and Science wings were now apart of the building. The science wing contained seven state of the art laboratories and one German classroom. Along with this new renovations took place in the gym such as a replacement of hardwood floors. A few years later (2004) the much needed renovations to Webber Road took place, and everything including the student parking lot was repaved. By 2006 the football field had added an entirely new set of bleachers and a press box.

Courses also changed with the times. In 1991, Spanish was added to the curriculum, making the available language courses: Spanish, French, German and Latin. Through Mr. Gary Phipps and Paulette Chernack the school was also able to provide Computer Assisted Drawing classes. In the fall of 1996, the first ever interdisciplinary course was added to the curriculum: Western Civilization. Also 1996 introduced the course Causeway to the school. Cause was a set up to be a one semester course that was required of all freshmen. It was a gateway to help smooth over the jump from middle school to high school and cover the four major areas of: study skills, school activities, wellness, and career planning. In 1997 Applied Applications in Biology and Chemistry were added along with a Business Communications course. The year 1999, introduced the school to it’s first ever College Algebra class, modeled by the curriculum taught at the Southern Maine Technical College and taught at the high school by Sue Simoneau. The new space created in 1999, provided an area for new classes to be taught. New computer classes were created such as Visual Basic and HTML.

By the year 2002, the school had 64% of its students going on to college, 31% seeking employment, and 3% of its students entering into the military. Through calculations from the Guidance department approximately 330 applications were processed to colleges and universities and about 2/3 resulted in acceptances. Up until this day the Guidance department continues to develop programs to increase student success after high school. The school still attempts to prepare all of its students to be college bound.

Faculty retiring in 2008 are: Robert Butler, Jr., Director of Student Services; Susan Randolph-Carey, Social Studies, Donald Harman, Biology; Donald Watters, Biology.



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