University Elementary School Building
The University had been interested in the problems of elementary and preschool education for some years prior to the erection of the Elementary School Building in 1929-30. For several years a branch of the Merrill-Palmer School, of Detroit, which had been maintained in Ann Arbor in a building provided by the University, had afforded practical training to students in child care and education. As the significance of this new development in the field of education became increasingly apparent, the erection of a building to continue and expand the program was proposed. At the June meeting of the Regents in 1927 the Board was notified that the state of Michigan had appropriated the sum of $1,100,000 for a site and for the construction of a laboratory elementary school. This amount, however, was subsequently reduced to $800,000.
Preparation of plans for the proposed building by the architectural firm of Malcomson and Higginbotham, of Detroit, was immediately authorized, and at the October, 1929, meeting the contract was let for its construction. The building was first occupied in September, 1930, and was formally accepted from the contractors, Spence Brothers of Saginaw, Michigan, by the Regents at their November meeting in 1930.
The Elementary School was erected, in effect, as a continuation of the University High School Building, which had been completed in 1923-24, so that the two practically form one building, although the newer section differs in some respects in design and construction Page 1734from the earlier High School Building.
The Elementary School stands on the northwest corner of East University Avenue and Monroe Street, filling the block completely to the parkway. The building is constructed of brick with stone trim and has two wings, which, with the wings of the University High School at the north, form an attractive court used as a children's playground. The building provides more than 95,000 square feet of floor space. In 1954 the building was valued at $561,000.
The Elementary School provides for the education of children between the ages of two and twelve years, taking them from nursery school through the sixth grade. It is equipped with complete facilities for the instruction of young children and has adequate provision for administrative officers and for the training of graduate and undergraduate students and other workers in child development.
From the time of the opening of the School until 1942 it was not used for student teaching for undergraduates. The policy was then changed because of the increasing shortage of teachers in the elementary field and because of an increased interest in elementary education among students at the University. Currently about one hundred students a year do their student teaching in the University Elementary School.
On the first-floor, passages from an attractive tiled lobby lead to the library, kindergarten rooms, a gymnasium, a small auditorium, a health unit, and rooms where the younger children take naps and have their luncheons.
Many facilities in the way of books, play, and special instructional material are provided in specially designed rooms. The second floor contains classrooms for grades two through six and for college classes, as well as offices and laboratories for the study of growth records and for the examination of the children. In general, aside from the suite of offices of the School of Education, the first floor is used for the younger children, while the second floor is devoted to the instruction of the older boys and girls. A number of rooms are equipped with observational balconies for use in the instruction of students. A third-floor playroom and a play court on the roof complete the facilities above the ground level.
When the building was constructed a full basement was excavated but left in rough form. The basement served primarily as storage space for a period of years. During World War II it became for a time the headquarters for the supply department of military units at the University. As the need for space has increased the interior of the basement has been reconstructed in a substantial fashion and now houses a Guidance and Counseling Laboratory, a Reading Improvement Service, a Group Dynamics Laboratory, and the offices of the University of Michigan Fresh Air Camp. A part of the space is devoted to an inactive collection of books transferred from the University Library because of crowded conditions there and to a collection of school textbooks of historic interest. The basement also provides space for a property room for the stage productions of the University High School.