Moms kept the faith and started Sevastopol’s school a century ago
A back-to-school party will take folks back in time on Labor Day when the Sevastopol School District launches a year-and-a-half-long centennial celebration.
The event set for Monday, Sept. 4, 1-3 pm, marks 1923 as the year when bid was let for the eventual completion of one of northern Wisconsin’s first consolidated schools. The centennial kickoff will feature free burgers, bratwurst, hot dogs, ice cream and root beer served at the athletic fields; bouncy houses for kids; school trivia; and a location where Sevastopol alumni, residents and former teachers can record their school memories.
Speakers for the initial program include Heather Spetz, a high school English teacher who’s retiring after this school year; and Mike Madden, who’s retired from teaching elementary and science classes and who has led presentations on Jacksonport history and one-room schools.
Madden pushed for the first 100-year video with a walk-through of original sections of the building prior to their demolition. He received assistance from videographer Laddie Chapman and got help from former staff and students.
The Labor Day program is the first of many events and commemorations during 2023, 2024 and 2025.
“We have other things in mind, but I’m not ready to talk about those because they aren’t fully cemented,” said Lisa Bieri, a Sevastopol alumna, the current school board president and a leader of the centennial committee.
John Callahan, who was the state superintendent of schools on Sept. 11, 1924, attended the opening of the school in Institute, and he saluted district residents for their progressive move to establish a high school in a rural farming community, according to a passage in a 75th-anniversary Sevastopol book.
A group of war moms who gathered to knit sweaters for their sons during the Great War came up with the idea to build a school so that their boys could obtain an education beyond eighth grade.
Bieri said she admires those women who pushed to get school construction started, and who then persevered again to get voters to support a new school when funds ran out after World War I. Bieri has heard stories and read historical pieces about those women and said they had to have courage because many men – including their husbands – wanted boys to work on the farms or in the family businesses. She noted that work was plentiful, and money was scarce.
School proponents argued that, at that time, area boys had to go to Sturgeon Bay if they wanted to attend high school. The commute was not practical, and most families either could not afford room and board in Sturgeon Bay or had no relatives there with whom their sons could stay.
“Over a period of years, they prevailed,” Bieri said of the consolidation promoters.
Seven Sevastopol Township districts joined together for the consolidation: District 1 – Lakeside School, District 2 – Dunn School, District 4 – Zettle School, District 5 – Whitefish Bay, District 6 – Fairmont, District 7 – Low Valley, and District 8 – Hilltop School.
As the years went on, other small or one-room schools in neighboring townships joined with Sevastopol. Among those, Bieri said, were the Carlsville school (now an entrance to a winery), the Farview (also known as “Fairview”) red schoolhouse in West Jacksonport, and the Groveland schoolhouse at County A and Junction Road.
Many of those schools stayed open for many years after Sevastopol opened – Jacksonport schools as late as the early 1960s, and Carlsville, which closed in 1965, according to a 2016 Peninsula Pulse story by Patty Williamson.
Staff members received 100th-anniversary polo shirts, and students will get T-shirts with the 100-year logo as the school year begins Sept. 5. A 100th-anniversary book is also in the works and should be available for purchase by next summer, according to superintendent Kyle Luedtke.
The celebration committee started meeting in April and settled on 2023 as the beginning of the celebration. Though classes began in 1924 and the first class graduated in 1925, bids were let for completion of the school in 1923. Many familiar Sevastopol and Door County names appeared among the contractors, such as Wulf and Anschutz; brick and carpentry contractors; and Fred Wilke for septic-tank work.