The year was 1967 — gas was $0.33 a gallon, the Green Bay Packers won the first Super Bowl and in Whitefish Lloyd Muldown’s vision for an innovative elementary school became a reality.
The elementary school opened its doors Sept. 5, 1967, after two years of construction.
A total of 620 students in grades one through four filled the classrooms, which were decorated with warm colors of brown, gold and orange accents, according to Pilot stories at the time.
The new school was conceived with high expectations, with words like “radical” and “space age” being tossed around to describe the open-space, flexible floor plan for the innovative learning styles then-Superintendent Muldown envisioned.
Plans for the school were finalized July of 1966, with a bond passed in November of the prior year to secure funding. The 1965 election saw a “record vote” with total of 1,106 people voting on whether to build a new elementary school, with 563 for and 543 against.
Brinkman and Lenon architects designed the school and Collins Construction Co. brought their blueprint to life.
The total cost for the project at the time came out to $693,090. Factoring in inflation, that comes out to about $5 million today.
The ideas expressed by school administrators then also echoed the sentiments of the Muldown Project Task Force now, which looks to build a new school to handle today’s changing educational environment, as well as address serious internal issues with the current building.
“This building should be in use for the next 50 years or more, and we knew that flexibility had to be built into the building to provide for the accelerating changes that are taking place in education,” then-elementary principal William Elliott told the Pilot in March of 1967.
Elliott described open classroom spaces divided by easily-moved chalk boards and teachers working together to make the best use of shared spaces.
In addition, the district began implementing class schedules that looked “like nothing ever experienced before,” according to an Aug. 31, 1967, Pilot article.
The schedules eliminated study halls in favor of one-on-one time with teachers and staff, and rather than several 55-minute periods, the day would be divided into 14 or 15 “modules.”
Some students were confused about the lack of defined walls in the open classrooms, with one telling the Pilot “our teacher better hurry and get those walls finished.”