The Opening of Miscoe Hill Middle School in 1980
problem of overcrowding and inadequate number of classrooms, and at the same time, opened up a new
way that children aged ten through fourteen would be educated in the Mendon-Upton School District. The
population of Mendon and Upton grew significantly in the 1960's through 1970's, and this meant that the
number of students in the town's schools had also increased. There were not enough classrooms in the
existing buildings to accommodate the influx of students at each grade level. The new school provided the
classrooms that had been so urgently needed. It also provided a new philosophy of how students in
grades five through eight would learn.
The problems of classroom space needs in the 1970's were solved by double sessions and portable
classrooms. Seventh graders attended school in the morning and were dismissed at noon. Eighth
graders began the school day at noon, and their day ended at five o'clock. In the winter, seventh graders
boarded their buses in the dark. Eighth graders got off their buses to go home in the dark. All extra-
curricular activities were curtailed. The elementary schools in both towns were surrounded by portable
clasrooms, pre-fabricated wooden buildings that served as temporary classrooms and extensions of
Clough and Memorial Schools. Obviously, these remedies were not in the best interest of the children, and
obviously a new school was needed.
Miscoe Hill Middle School opened as an attached rear wing of Nipmuc Regional High School at 148 North
Avenue in Mendon. Mr. William Milligan was the school's principal. He indicated in his first annual report
that there were 518 students enrolled for grades five through eight. The space needs had been solved.
Double sessions ended, and the portable classrooms were taken away. (Note: A portable classroom was
purchased by the Mendon Parks Department, and it is located at the parking lot across from the town
beach. It is currently used for storage, but it was once a classroom housing first and third grade
classrooms in the 1970's.)
The new school, under the direction of Mr. Milligan, offered a new philosophy in education: the Middle
School concept. It was not to be regarded as a junior high or a feeder system for a high school. The
students would not be regarded as mini-high schoolers, but rather as students aged ten through fourteen
having their own identities in regards to academic, social, physical, and emotional needs and issues. It
acknowledged that middle school students have high levels of energy, and that the energy would be guided
and channeled in a positive manner that would benefit the academic growth of each child. It did not
recommend that energy be stifled, but rather directed. There were activity periods that mixed grade levels.
As an example, students in grades 5-8 could sign up for a cooking activity with Mrs. Loeper, or bird watching
with Mrs. Robertson, or making their own simple machines with Mr. Malloy. Industrial arts and home
economics were part of the curriculum. Tracking of students by ability (7-1, 7-2, 7-3, 7-4, 7-5) was no longer
permitted. Classes contained mixtures of high level and low level achieving students. There would be
student role models in each class, and there would be no labeling or having to endure the humiliation of
being in a 7-5 class. The middle school concept utilized and harnessed student energy and focused on
promoting academic growth and self-esteem.
An interesting sidelight of Miscoe Hill's opening year was that it was being watched and evaluated by other
communities throughout the state. Teachers and administrators from other towns often came to visit and
tour the school during the day. Apparently, the middle school concept was regarded as somewhat of an
experiment. A group that had been studying middle schools in the early 1980's ranked Miscoe Hill as the
highest in the state.
Looking back to 1980, thirty years later, the construction of Miscoe Hill Middle School solved the school
district's problem of inadequate number of classrooms and opened up a new approach to educating
children. Since then, there have been many challenges. They have included continued town growth and the
ongoing need of more space, budget and financial constraints, MCAS expectations, and changes in
technology and equipment. Since its opening, the student population has nearly doubled, and the school
now includes all the classrooms of the adjoining former high school. Though times have changed and
circumstances are different, some things have not changed. Miscoe Hill Middle School continues to be
characterized by dedicated, caring, and hardworking teachers and administrators and an energetic and
academic student body. The vision of Mr. Milligan, the teachers, the administration, the school committee,
and the townspeople of 1980 has endured and prospered.
former Miscoe Hill teacher
from 1980 to 2008