Steadfast in the belief that a Christian education in one’s earliest years was vitally important, a Christian day school was opened by our congregation’s forefathers in 1866 – just four years after Morrison Zion Lutheran Church was founded. This school, though vastly different from the Pre-school through eighth grade set-up of today, met the needs of area youth by teaching God’s Holy Word alongside traditional lessons of reading, writing, and arithmetic.
The first school to house Morrison’s earliest students was a log structure, which was built promptly in 1866 on the same site of the present school. This original house of learning did not last long.
A new school was built shortly after in 1888 and the “old” log schoolhouse was moved to the other side of the road where it served as the first teacherage until 1949. This second school was a one-room facility made largely of field stones, which were readily available in the sprawling farm fields of the area. The school was built with three-foot thick walls. At one time no less than 80 students were crowded into this one-room school. In comparison, in 2012, there were 92 students at Morrison taught in five rooms.
Our school’s first-ever teacher was Pastor Kluge, who was a traveling minister to our church from Reedsville from 1866-1872. Because of his long journey from Reedsville, he enlisted the help of a student named Jonas to carry out additional teaching duties.
A series of pastors continued on this duel role of minister and main school teacher at our congregation until Franz Gruett was brought here as the first resident teacher at Morrison Zion. His entry into Morrison’s classrooms came 20 years after the school was founded. His time was brief here, however, serving only from 1886 to 1887.
For the next 23 years, a series of seven different teachers would come and go in Morrison, before a constant presence came in the form of teacher Edgard Blauert. As a fresh college graduate, he was called in the fall of 1920 directly from Martin Luther College in New Ulm to our tiny community of Morrison nearly 400 miles away. This first teaching call for Blauert would also be his last, as he served our congregation until his death in 1964 – some 44 years of total service later. Over the years, many of his first students would grow up and send their own children on to school, and even some of their grandchildren were taught by Teacher Blauert. At first he taught all the students, but at the end of his term he only taught the seventh and eighth grades. During his years at Zion he also served as principal.
During Blauert’s time, there was also a change from teaching lessons in German to teaching in English. For the first 60 years of our school’s existence, the teaching and ministering was done exclusively in German. Then, in 1937, Pastor Froehlich was called to begin ministering in English, while Pastor Gladosch continued to minister in German. Pastor Froehlich took over the teaching duties of the 1st through 4th grades, and Teacher Blauert taught 5th through 8th grades. Still, some students were instructed in English and some in German. It wasn’t until 1941 that all the teaching was done in English.
For the first year after teaching duties were split, the basement of the parsonage was used as a second classroom until another classroom was added to the original fieldstone school in 1938. Eventually, Pastor Froehlich took over all pastoral duties when Pastor Gladosch left due to failing health. Because of his increased minister responsibilities, Pastor Froehlich could no longer teach the younger grades, so Miss Alma Ihlenfeldt was called. She, too, would become a longstanding fixture of Morrison, guiding young Christians for 34 years, from 1945 to 1979.
Shortly into Ihlenfeldt’s career in Morrison, the enrollment at Zion continued to rise and, in 1952, another addition to the school was necessary. This renovation added two classrooms, a kitchen and a large basement hall for recreational purposes. The two old classrooms were also renovated. This building project was dedicated on August 23, 1953. Roughly 95 students attended the school at this time. Also around this time, before a true bussing system was in place, parents would often take turns transporting the school’s children to school in their own improvised “bus system.”
Along with Morrison’s students’ formal education, the need for recreational activities became evident after the midway points of the 1900s. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, various sporting teams were created within the school under the moniker of the “Morrison Knights.” Also, a school band program was added in 1970. These extracurricular activities have not only given students the chance to participate in sports and music, but also the opportunity for fellowship with each other and with other Lutheran school students.
A catalyst for the school’s ability to form teams and host sporting events came through a monetary donation received from a member’s estate. After much debate, the congregation decided to add a gymnasium to the school. The cornerstone for the gym, nearby kitchen, and showers was laid in 1974 and completed in the fall of 1975. It is said that there were differing opinions about this project at the time, but the congregation pulled together and set aside their differences as numerous volunteer hours and donations of materials lowered the overall cost of the addition.
Other changes came to Morrison around this time as well. As Ladies Aid President, Joyce Edinger realized how much the school children enjoyed the annual Christmas hot lunch served by the Ladies Aid. She felt the students would appreciate receiving a hot lunch on a more regular basis. Thus, a group of mothers started the hot lunch program in 1976. It continues to this day, with mothers serving hot lunch to the children once or twice each month. Also in 1976, the members at Zion recognized the importance of ongoing Christian education of their children following their time in Morrison and joined both the Manitowoc Lutheran High School and Fox Valley Lutheran High School federations.
In the coming decades, parents and students would also donate time regularly to maintain the school facilities that God has blessed our congregation with. Through the years, many have worked to upkeep the school grounds, ball diamonds, playgrounds, gymnasium and classrooms on Morrison’s campus. Of note, additional painting projects have taken place to add beauty to our school. As a show of school spirit, principal Wade Cohoon oversaw the painting of a Knights mural in 1994, which is still on display in the central hallway of Morrison some 18 years later in 2012. Also, from 1953 through the summer of 2000, the basement walls had remained its original color, but Cohoon’s successor as principal, Brian Humann, enlisted the assistance of our congregation’s Youth Group to change the color scheme of this room. Because this area is often used for music instruction, the group felt that it would be fitting to add musical notes and other musical signs to accent the walls.
Full time Kindergarten was added to the curriculum in 1993, using a three-day per week schedule. The students received teaching under Bethel Cohoon. When Pre-School was added in 1995, a full-time teacher, Joan Wegner, was called to teach both Kindergarten and Pre-School. It is said that these programs have proven to be a great call to our littlest lambs as a stepping-stone into Christian education and a wonderful benefit to our school.
As student enrollment began to rise, our teaching staff required an extra set of hands to answer telephones and perform office duties. Prior to this time, the pastor and teachers would carry out these tasks on their own. A new position of church and school secretary was created in the summer of 1994, and Nancy Pantzlaff joined our staff to fill the position, and has remained in this role as of 2014.
The advent of the computer age also changed the face of Morrison education, as long-standing standards of textbooks and paper notebooks soon needed to be supplemented by computers and laptops to keep pace with changing times. The congregation facilitated this need on multiple occasions, with several computers added to the classrooms in the 1980s. This was just the start. Computers were added sporadically in classrooms through the 1990s, but through donations, an entire computer lab was added to the school basement in 2001. Within a few years, the computers were networked and were able to access the Internet. In 2008, new laptops were installed, and from 2009 to 2012, a series of electronic smartboards were also added to classrooms.
In 2007, a $600,000 expansion took place to the school, which added a new classroom, a commons area, office space, and conference room. Currently, there are five classrooms within the school. In 2012, the gymnasium faced its first major overhaul in its nearly 40 year history. New red bleachers replaced the original wooden set, as well as other changes to the gym walls.