The Mill Valley staff believes that these words are the heart and soul of Mill Valley Elementary School. We are a school with a lot of history and take pride in the many traditions we still share in. Our staff is dedicated to the education of your child and we will continually strive to take your child to their next level of learning.We see ourselves as life long learners and continue to learn along side your child as we build relationships based on respect and understanding.
Together as a staff we are committed to these words. You will see them posted throughout the school as a reminder of our commitment of working together to meet the needs of all students here at Mill Valley.
The early history of the area around Mill Valley is as interesting as that of the school. Aumable Vieau was the first trader sent to the Muskego area in 1827. The Pottawatomie Indians inhabited the area during this time and in 1836, the first settlers arrived after following the Indian trails. At that time, it took three days to travel roundtrip to the nearest trading post in Milwaukee owned and operated by Solomon Juneau. In 1849, Janesville Road was planked for the first time and made into a toll road with toll gates at Muskego Centre, Hales Corners and the Forest Home Cemetery. Between 1836 and 1839, many new settlers were clearing and purchasing their land for the minimum price of $1.25 per acre. By 1839, the population had grown to twenty-three families and a post office was necessary. Postmistress Cynthia Reynolds was the first to serve Muskego's families.
In 1854 a law was passed to establish the public schools, and schooling changed from home-based instruction to the concept of formal, group instruction delivered by a teacher. It wasn't long before a school was built. Louisa M. Cole donated 1/2 acre to the from the New Berlin-Muskego Join School District #3 in 1856. The land was located on the Milwaukee-Beloit Road, now called Hillendale Drive. In fact, the original school building was located exactly where the main office of the current Mill Valley is. The original school building was a 24 x 24 frame building with three windows on the side facing north and three on the side facing south. The building was heated by a wood burning stove located about 1/3 of the way back in the room. Because of the sawmills and gristmill taking advantage of the ample water supply in the valley, the school was named Mill Valley.
The school was supplied through the goodwill of the community. Mr. Noud made all the desks in the school and was paid $7 for this as well as the teacher desk and side benches. The blackboard was literally two smooth ten-inch by six-foot boards, painted black. Water for use at the school was originally retrieved by students from a nearby well. In 1888, a well was dug, but insufficient for the school's needs, so the school continued to purchase water from A. Haresen through a contract to utilize his well (50 cents for two years, one dollar for five years). The school also use the Preston Farm well for a considerable time. Finally, in 1916 a new well was dug. Chalk for the new school was an item that had to be purchased and because it was so expensive (two pieces for a penny), the teacher was the only one allowed to write on the chalkboard.
Dr. John L. Ingersoll (1865) and George Robinson (1870's) were among the first teachers. Originally (1864) only male teachers were hired, but that decision was reversed in 1865. The salary was $28 per month and the officers of the school agreed to raise $75 for the school year. The teachers taught all eight grades in one room. In the winter, the enrollment jumped to as many as 50 pupils and for several years it was more than 80 pupils. Teachers utilized the Harper Brother's series of school books and lived in a home near the school where they paid a boarding fee of $10 or $11 per month. At first, the school district paid this, but later the teachers were asked to pay it. Teachers did all of the cleaning of the school - dusting, sweeping and stocking wood for the stove.
Students went to school four months in the winter and four months in the summer in 1867. Students were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history and spelling. Recess was seven minutes long with boys and girls having separate recess times. The school rules for students in 1870 prohibited the use of tobacco, firearms and profane language.
Between 1900 and 1908 many improvements were made to the school. A new wire fence was added, the building was expanded six feet to add more room, the building was re-shingled, a new chimney was built, and the building was repainted. Additionally, a cupola and bell were added. And, in 1911, the district approved the building of a woodshed. The outhouses remained the only bathroom facilities.
In 1922, the first request to build a more modern structure was rejected in a 30-18 vote. But, in 1925, a special meeting was called to raise $5,000 to build a new brick school. After all bids were in, the construction for the new school began. Ms. Carol Marvin, teacher, led students in the new school's opening celebrations and first year of operation. The new school even had indoor toilet facilities! However, when the wind would blow just right, the vent for the toilets would turn the wrong way and the smell would remain in the building. So, one of the older boys would be sent to the roof to turn the vent to the correct position. The old school was sold for $140 became a garage and grainery for Mr. Kaska.
Many interesting events occurred between 1925 and 1939. The new school had two fires. One from stacking wood to close to the furnace which students and the teacher were able to handle. The other fire was due to a lit pumpkin placed on the piano that burned down and started the piano on fire. Additionally, many school picnics were held and learning continued throughout these years.
In 1939, an addition to the brick structure was made which included two classrooms, a utility room and a library for a total cost of $20,000. The cornerstone of that addition was dedicated by Wisconsin's governor at the time, Julius P. Heil. Governor Heil was a former Mill Valley student! The cornerstone is visible inside Mill Valley just passed the main office, on the left side of the hallway.
Less than ten years later, another addition was made to the school and this is only one example of the continued growth of the school. This addition was based on climbing enrollments. In 1948, the building included six classrooms. Students were able to be divided into six groups (first, second, 3-4, 4-5, and 6-7). Principal Fred Wright taught the 8th grade in addition to his duties as principal. Growth continued throughout the 1950's. Additional classrooms continued to be made. An eight room addition in 1953 also included a new gymnasium, principal's office and storage rooms for $170,000. The Annual Meeting in 1956 reported, "From a one room rural school of just a few pupils, we have grow to be a suburban district of 397 pupils. We have thirteen full-time teachers, part-time teachers for vocal and instrumental music, and a full-time administrator. Next year, two more teachers will be added to take care of our ever-increasing enrollment. The excellence of our school program is attested to by the fact that our school was given the "Integrated rating this year by the State Department of Public Instruction. This is the highest rating given by the Department. It is based upon a careful survey of the quality of educational services offered in the school. We can be proud of that fact that we are one of the first school to qualify for this new rating, and one of only seven elementary schools in the county to be given the rating this year."
William Koloski served as the principal starting in 1955 and helped Mill Valley celebrate this and its centennial. Additionally, the school was purchasing several pieces of equipment to modernize services. A new water heater, duplicating machine, 150 folding chairs, 30 new student desks, two new teachers desk, and a new water pump were all intended to serve students better.
Another milestone was reached in 1960 when the community voted to consolidate all schools into one school district (The Muskego-Norway School District). Mill Valley had grown to fourteen classrooms and 445 students. With a new high school recently constructed, voters felt that eliminating a separate school board for each building was appropriate. Further, it was not long before an intermediate school was built to accommodate the seventh and eighth grade students. This alleviated some of the elementary crowding. Later, in 1969, the fifth and sixth grade students were also moved from Mill Valley and this further alleviated any space related problems. The Viking mascot was lost as well as school colors, blue and white.
We hope you enjoyed the early history of Mill Valley Elementary and the surrounding area. A very special thank you to Charles Damaske. Mr. Damaske wrote, "A Historical Review of Mill Valley School" for the 125th Anniversary of Mill Valley in 1981. Much of what you read above is paraphrased from this work, and so the credit for the wonderful information goes to him.