Do you know what school district you live in? 

October 4, 2023

Do you know what school district you live in? 

FYI By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

Do you know what school district you live in? You may be surprised to know that just because your postal address is a particular town that you don’t necessarily live in the school district that correlates with that town. For example, if you have a Ludington address, it’s very possible that you live in the Mason County Central School District rather than the Ludington Area School District, especially if you live in Amber, Victory, or Riverton townships. 

MCC includes all of the City of Scottville and Victory Township, most of Riverton Township (with the exception of a one mile stretch of Morton Road north of the Oceana County line), most of Logan Township (with the exception of a portion on the southern section) and parts of Amber, Grant, Free Soil, Sherman, Custer, Eden and Branch townships in Mason County, a small part of Weare Township in Oceana County, a small part of Sweetwater and Lake townships in Lake County, and a small part of Filer Township in Manistee County. 

Ludington Area School District includes all of the City of Ludington and all of Hamlin, Pere Marquette and Summit townships, along with a portion of Amber Township. 

Mason County Eastern School District includes all of Sheridan Township and portions of Free Soil, Meade, Sherman, Custer, Branch and Eden townships.

Scottville School as it was built in 1888.

Knowing what school district you live in becomes fairly obvious when you have children and need to enroll them in the school. Unless you fill out the proper school of choice paperwork, and receive approval, or unless you chose to send your kids to a private school or homeschool, your children attend school in the district you live in. But, for those who do not have children, or do not have school-aged children, you may not have much reason to know this information. Of course, if you are a property owner, you should know where your taxes go, which is stated on your tax bill. This information is also invaluable when it’s time to vote. 

So why are the district lines drawn like this? Why is Central’s district split with Eastern in between? 

The primary answer to these questions goes back to 1855 when Mason County was organized. Settlers understood the importance of educating their children and began establishing schools in their communities. 

The first schools established in Mason County were established in what are now Pere Marquette, Custer and Victory townships. Rural schools were established in the center of populated areas, with the intention that children wouldn’t have to walk more than two miles to get there. Essentially, each rural school building was its own district with each having a three-person school board. Schools in the City of Ludington date to 1865. 

By the early 20th century, the county had 69 separate school districts with 74 buildings (Ludington Union School District in the City of Ludington included a high school and four elementary buildings). The early 1900s saw improvements to transportation and roads while populations shifted. Some of the rural school districts started to annex and redistrict into other districts. As transportation became more efficient and faster, schools began consolidating. Victory Township was the first to do so in 1939 by creating the Victory Township Unit School District, which combined that township’s seven districts.

In 1888, Amber Township School District No. 6, Fractional (a fractional school district meant it included more than one municipality, in this case Amber Township and the City of Scottville), in Scottville, built a new school building that served grades kindergarten through 12th grade. Scottville became one of four high school districts in the county, which also included Ludington, Custer and Free Soil. 

Following World War I, the United States changed from an isolated agrarian society to an industrial society. The educational needs of the country also changed and a push was made for children to receive a secondary education. 

Original Ludington High School.

Through the 1920s and 1930s more school districts consolidated into township units. 

In 1927, Scottville school hired Newaygo County native Arnold O. Carlson (1905-1981) as its principal. In 1934, Carlson was promoted to superintendent. A few years later, he began working on his master’s degree at the University of Michigan. His 1941 master’s thesis, Carlson discussed school organization in Mason County, where he recommended that the primary school districts consolidate into larger districts, which would include secondary schools. 

Carlson, along with his fellow superintendents Oliver J. DeJonge of Ludington, Charles Harley of Custer and Max Carey of Free Soil, and Elna Hansen, the elected county superintendent of schools, each advocated for a consolidation of the county’s rural districts. This movement saw a major step forward when, in 1955, when Mason County Central and Mason County Eastern school districts were formed. Throughout the rest of the 50s and into the 60s, county-level committees worked on drawing the boundary lines of the districts, based on the old rural school districts.

In Amber Township, for example, three school districts chose to join Ludington Area School District. Those included Amber Township District No. 4, the Star (or Moore) school, located at the corner of Conrad and Brye roads, District No. 7, fractional, Lincoln Valley, located on Hansen Road near Rasmussen Road, and District No. 8, Eagle, located at the intersection of US 10 and Brye Road. Those districts each had a radius approximately two miles in each direction from the school building. The remainder of the Amber Township districts chose to join Mason County Central, which is why the border line is approximately Dennis Road. 

The school districts in Hamlin, Pere Marquette and Summit townships chose to join the Ludington Area School District. Several districts on the eastern side of the county chose between Central and Eastern, which is why the map seems to criss-cross between the two. 

Sherman School District No. 7, Fountain. Built in 1893; annexed to Custer School District (later Mason County Eastern) in 1956 and closed in 1968. Today the school is owned by Five CAP and used as a Head Start building.

By 1966, all primary (elementary) districts were consolidated into the four secondary districts. 

Though Free Soil Community School eventually included most of Free Soil and Meade townships, it also had some divisions. Free Soil Township Unit combined with Meade Township District No. 1 fractional, which closed in 1941. Meade Township District No. 2 (New School), which was located in the northeast corner of Meade Township, would become part of the Norman-Dickson School District No. 6 in Manistee County (now Kaleva-Norman-District Public Schools). Grant Township District No. 2 fractional, Pelton, for example, located on the west side of US 31 about half mile south of Free Soil Road (the building is still there), went into Free Soil Township. That district chose to join MCC. 

Following its closure, Free Soil Community School consolidated with Mason County Eastern in 2013. 

While fractionalization of the current school districts may cause confusion, perhaps now you have a better understanding of why the boundaries exist the way they do. This confusion may often cause voters to neglect their duties unintentionally. For example, on Tuesday, Nov. 7 Mason County Central will make its third attempt in two years to pass a bond for safety, security and infrastructure needs. In the last two elections voter turnout was, sadly, only about 25 percent of registered voters. It is likely that there were many voters who didn’t know they live in the school district. Be sure to study the included map and also to check your tax bills, and then, regardless what district you live in, show up and vote. 

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