Artist’s rendering taken from cover of 1991 dedication program
Posted March 13, 2017
Horizon Elementary School is celebrating its 25th anniversary this school year, marking a milestone in educating the community’s children.
In addition to special dress-up days on the 25th of each month, Horizon also celebrated the anniversary at its recent Literacy Night on March 2.
Horizon Elementary School came to be during a time of significant overcrowding in Plymouth elementary schools, with the district renting classroom space elsewhere and projections calling for continued population growth. A Citizen Committee was convened in 1989 to explore options to address the overcrowding.
“The cheese industry was taking off at a fast pace, and Plymouth was the recipient of an influx of families seeking to raise their families in a community with a strong history of commitment to children and education,” recalled Nancy Jusky, who headed the committee.
The committee considered various options before recommending construction of a third elementary school in the city, to join Fairview and Parkview as well as schools in Parnell and Cascade.
The voters agreed in an April 1990 referendum, and ground was broken later that year on the as-yet-unnamed school to be built along Highland Avenue south of Plymouth High School.
The building was designed by Bray Associates Architects and built by Jim Pankow Inc. It features a large library in the middle, and a pair of adjoining classrooms for each grade. It also has a media room with tiered seating, separate art and music rooms, a cafeteria with lots of natural light, and a dedicated gymnasium.
“Perched on a hillside overlooking the future growth of the community, it was the perfect complement for this new jewel in Plymouth’s education arsenal,” Mrs. Jusky said. “This description of the school’s location was definitely a factor in naming the new school after a community contest was held; Horizon it was, and Horizon it remains!”
Horizon opened in the fall of 1991, with every classroom full. A formal dedication was held Sept. 29, 1991, with the National Anthem and musical selections played by the PHS Band Ensemble. Then-Superintendent Paul Brandl welcomed those gathered, followed by remarks by Mrs. Jusky, Board of Education President David Andrew, and Assistant Superintendent Susan McFarlane (who would serve as the first principal).
The featured guest speaker was Elden Amundson, who served as superintendent from 1953 to 1980. Refreshments were served in the cafeteria, and people were invited to tour the building at their leisure.
Most of the staff came from other district schools. “It was a time of optimism, because they wanted people willing to try new methods,” remembered teacher John Langhout, who had been happy teaching at Parkview but was drawn to the new school.
The staff, students and families made Horizon special, Mr. Langhout said. “We all got along, as a staff,” he said. “Parents became friends. I loved my students like I loved my own children. We just became a big family.”
Mr. Langhout initially taught fifth grade at Horizon, switching to fourth grade when the fifth grade was moved to Riverview. He retired in 2011. “To this day I run into former students, parents and I get hugs and kisses,” he said.
Peggy Gnadt, who teaches fourth grade at Horizon, also transferred to Horizon from Parkview, where she had been teaching fifth grade. “We had to fill out an application if we wanted to move from our current school to the new school,” she recalled.
“We met as a staff quite a bit before we opened and in the beginning days,” she said. Over the years, she taught fourth grade, third grade and a loop of fourth and fifth grades, before returning to fourth grade only when the fifth grade moved to Riverview.
Following Mrs. McFarlane as principal were current Superintendent Carrie Dassow, Kandy Gibson, Todd Hunt and now Dena Budrecki.
Dr. Dassow, who became principal the second year Horizon was open and served for nine years in that position, also recalled the wonderful environment in the school. “Staff – who came from all these different schools – spent a lot of time creating a family,” she said.
“One thing I remember was the variety of programs offered at the school,” she added. There was a room for Head Start, and the very first Family Resource Center office, and a multi-age classroom, with grades through middle school.”