In 1955, a new Janesville High School opened on Randall Avenue.
By 1958, it was already 30 students over capacity.
And by the early 1960s, Janesville schools Superintendent Fred Holt was already talking about building a new high school.
It was a conversation he was accustomed to having.
Starting in the mid-1950s, the local school district experienced a building blitz. It was matched by school districts across the country that were coping with the massive group of youngsters who came to be known as the baby boomers.
In 1940, about 2.56 million children were born in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
By 1948, that number had reached 3.64 million. By 1955, when Janesville’s new high school opened, it was at 5 million.
In 1965, Holt attended groundbreaking ceremonies for Madison and Jackson elementary schools.
Monroe Elementary opened in 1967.
In a Janesville Daily Gazette article dated May 16, 1966, Holt made his case.
The existing high school was at “optimum capacity,” and although more students could theoretically be jammed into the school, it would tax the building beyond its original intent, he said.
The school board considered expanding what was then Janesville High School. But even if 30 classrooms were added to the building, they would suffice only until 1968.
At that time, the high school housed grades 10 to 12, and ninth-graders attended junior high.
“In a desperate attempt to alleviate the overcrowding, the sophomore class was moved en masse last year to facilities at Marshall Junior High,” the story reported. “This was an ironic twist because only 10 years before, the entire (high school) abandoned Marshall for new facilities.”
But city officials, who had to borrow money for the new schools, balked at borrowing $7 million for a new high school and what would become Monroe Elementary School.
“This council-school board debate is in marked contrast to wholehearted agreement between the two bodies … on the question of what is now the Janesville Senior High School,” the story reported.
One difference: When the council agreed to borrow $3.42 million in 1954, it didn’t raise taxes.
Building what would become Parker High School would increase taxes an average of $4.41 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. In May 1966, the median cost for a home in the United States was $22,300, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Responding to complaints that Janesville High School had too many windows and too much “useless space,” Holt stressed that the new high school would not be like the old one.
For example, the new high school probably would not have “nearly as many windows,” reducing heating costs. Building a multistory structure also would help, he said.
Finally, Holt argued that west-siders were due for an upgrade. Residents “have argued ‘very vociferously’ that the west side is as important as the east side and should have equal facilities for the children on that side of town,” the story stated.
“I’m sure they still feel that way,” Holt said.