Parker arch design

Architectural rendering for Parker High School.

Rock County Historical Society

The city was ready for a new high school as early as 1964, but Parker didn’t open its doors until 1968.

Here’s a timeline of significant events.

October 1964: The Janesville City Council approves building a $6 million high school and elementary school. It still owes $3 million on the high school built in 1955.

May 1965: The Janesville School Board votes to name the new high school after George S. Parker and to rename Janesville High School in honor of Joseph A. Craig.

February 1966: The city council approves borrowing $6.2 million to build Monroe Elementary and Parker High School.

May 1966: Construction bids come in higher than expected, and the school board has to return to the city council and ask it to borrow $7 million instead of $6.2 million. The council rejects the request. Three council members say they think the amount they previously approved was “plenty.”

June 1966: After a long discussion, the city council approves the school bond issue of about $7 million to cover the cost of Parker and Monroe. The tax impact is expected to be $4.41 per $1,000 of assessed value per year.

December 1966: Superintendent Fred Holt asks the school board to approve a split shift at Janesville High School for fall 1967 because the new high school might not be done in time.

The boundary lines for the two schools also were established around this time.

Based on a 10-year projection of attendance figures, the dividing line follows Center Avenue and Centerway and then jogs north on Prairie Avenue until it reaches the railroad tracks. Those east of the line will attend Marshall Junior High and Craig High School. Those west of the line will attend Franklin Junior High and Parker High School.

June 1967: A strike sets opening day back.

“Work slowed at the site when the Bricklayers, Masons and Plasterers Local 7 went on strike approximately 10 weeks ago,” a story in the Janesville Daily Gazette reported.

School district Business Manager William Young told the Gazette that “once an agreement was negotiated, it was difficult getting full crews back because they had taken jobs elsewhere.”

At that point, 18 bricklayers were on the job, and school officials hoped to increase that number to 28 by the next week. Before the strike, 35 bricklayers had worked on the project.

September 1967: Holt tells teachers—including 140 new hires—at school orientation that “Parker is on the way” but offered no opening date.

Also in September, Young gave an update on the project, noting that 45 bricklayers were completing the walls of the auditorium and the gymnasium would soon be roofed.

“Right now, no one is willing to make a guess as to when Parker will be ready—there are too many factors to be considered,” Young told the Gazette.

Oct. 30, 1967: Parker High School cornerstone is laid. In attendance were the grandsons of George S. Parker, George and Daniel Parker, school board President Dorothy Gilbertson and Parker Principal Hugh Horswill.

“But the doughtiest of them all was 97-year-old Mrs. George S. Parker, who appeared at the ceremonies to hear the accolades accorded her husband, after whom the school is named,” the Janesville Daily Gazette reported.

Doughtiest is an archaic word that means intrepid, plucky and fearless.

In the steel chamber behind the cornerstone, school board members, staff, students and city officials placed a variety of items, including a Parker pen, a framed engraving of Parker used for years by the Gazette, the silver dollar that was flipped to determine the name of the new school, a program from the previous week’s Homecoming, a faculty roster and a packet of all newspaper articles and pictures featuring the school.

Nov. 17, 1967: Henry (Sam) West, a roofer, dies from injuries he suffered about a week earlier, when he fell about 30 feet while working on the new high school.

Jan. 11, 1968: The academic area is “virtually completed,” but Parker will open without the use of its auditorium and physical education facilities, according to a newspaper report.

Jan. 17, 1968: Holt tells the school board that he’s sticking to the Feb. 5 opening date even if the school isn’t completely finished.

Students are losing the equivalent of a day a week of instruction on the current schedule, Holt said.

Feb. 8, 1968: Classes are dismissed at Janesville High School for the last time. Parker teachers, helped by many of their students, spend the three-day weekend moving in.

Feb. 12, 1968: Doors open at Parker.

“With all the aplomb of a luxury ocean liner, Parker High School welcomed students on board this morning and settled down to a regular teaching routine that’s been missing since September,” the Janesville Daily Gazette reported. “Students wandered its gleaming corridors with something of an air of awe over the beauty of their $6 million establishment.”

Construction wasn’t completed, nor had everything been moved.

“The most jarring note of all, next to the minor traffic jam that developed on West Mineral Point Avenue, was the complete lack of furniture in the room designated ‘faculty lounge,’” the story said. “Invention prevailed, however, and an inverted wastebasket became a table with a single folding chair pressed into service.”

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