Bay View feared the closing of Mound Street School
These new rooms were clean, sleek and efficient. Gone were the ornate mouldings, wainscoating and fixtures, replaced by modern fluorescent lights running nearly the length of the room. Out with the old cast iron and wood desks bolted to the floor, with flip-up chairs attached to the desk behind; in with simple, easily moved, utilitarian chairs, two-to-a-table.
Old, inefficient windows were replaced with modern examples with shades that rolled down to the bottom and up to the top from a scroll in the middle. Tall doorways capped with transom lights were replaced with metal framed contemporary doorways.
Room 16 also got an acoustical ceiling, new blackboards, radiant heat and a refinished floor, though existing floors in less pristine condition were promised linoleum or asphalt tiles. Finally, the walls were painted light yellow and green.
According to a newspaper report, the room was "transformed as an experiment which will help guide the modernization of teaching quarters in many of the school system's older buildings. Modernization of older schools formed a substantial part of the program which got the go-ahead signal last spring when Milwaukee voters authorized the issue of 39 million dollars in bonds during the next five years to meet future school housing needs. Nearly six million dollars of that amount was earmarked for the improvement of serviceable schools in established areas of the city."
In order to make the most of that money, the school board decided to create a one-size-fits-all classroom it could retrofit into old buildings. Room 16's makeover cost $5,000 for construction and $800 for furniture. Contrasting that with estimates of $30,000-$35,000 per room for a new permanent school, the board figured it was on to something.
But tinkering with classrooms couldn't change the reality of demographics and their effects on school enrollments and budgets and by the late '70s, MPS was ready to close a number of schools: Liberty-MacArthur, Fifth Street, Ludington, Warnimont Avenue, McKinley, Jefferson, Mound, Wells, Clarke Street Annex.
Neighborhoods were concerned.
Downtown barber Jose Ortiz had two children at Mound Street. "Close the school," he told the Journal, "and it will hasten the run to the suburbs. A school holds a neighborhood together. I believe in this neighborhood. I own my own home there. They talk about integrating the schools; well, we've done it. We have a multicultural neighborhood, with good, hard working people in it."
But while these days, it's often hard to find a buyer for a century-old schoolhouse in a down economy, MPS had interested buyers for a number of properties. MSOE and a yoga school expressed interest in Jefferson (located just west of Juneau Village) and a day care operator purchased McKinley (and still owns it) and there were at least three parties interested in Fifth Street: the City Health Department wanted it for a health clinic, a church sought to open a day care there and the Opportunities Industrialization Center hoped to use it as a job training site.
Maybe Bay View did OK despite the closure of Mound Street School in spring 1979 because it, too, had a buyer. Towne Realty bought the building and tapped KM Development to remodel it into Winchester Village.
The building still lords over its quiet Bay View street. But instead of housing children during daylight hours, Mound Street has carpeted hallways leading to 48 apartments for the elderly and handicapped. Within a few months of opening February 1983 it was at full occupancy.
Two of its first residents were 67-year-old Cecelia Wawrzyniakowski and 79-year-old Helen Sedivy. For them, moving in was something of a homecoming.
"I started kindergarten here and went up to the seventh grade," Wawrzyniakowski told newspaper reporter Marilyn Gardner. Tillie, as she was known to her friends, said she loved the school.
Sedivy's return was perhaps ironic. "I hated school," she told Gardner. "I played hooky and there was a truancy officer right there saying, 'You get back to school, little girl.' No matter what route I took (to skip school), that son-of-a-gun was always on my tail."
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