Our school district, nestled in the rolling
farmlands and hills of the historic Mohawk Valley, covers
approximately 57 square miles and serves parts of the towns of
Minden, Palatine, and Canajoharie in Montgomery County; part of the
town of Danube in Herkimer County; and part of the town of Ephratah
in Fulton County.
We are proud of our excellent student
performance, which can be attributed to up-to-date programs and the
district's capable staff, who are dedicated to the belief that all
students should be given the opportunity to learn and become
productive citizens. Our district offers a comprehensive educational
program from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, responding to the needs
of all students by building a foundation of basic skills and
emphasizing academic achievement. Our district offers a large number
of extracurricular activities to students both through our own staff
and facilities and through merged activities with our neighboring
school district, Canajoharie Central School.
The Fort Plain community is committed to a
holistic approach to academic excellence by relying on the district
to develop full dimensional individuals - people of reason,
responsibility, compassion, and character. Our community has
demonstrated this commitment by passing referendums for new
construction and renovation, thereby insuring that our students can achieve
academic success in technologically current, safe facilities.
We hope you will visit our school to see the
wonderful accomplishments of our students and staff. The meaning of
partnership in our educational community is evident every day to
those to live and raise families here. It's woven in the fabric of
the Fort Plain community and has enhanced the education of our
students since the formation of the central school district in
The Fort Plain Central
School District will provide each student with the opportunity to
develop intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically in a
safe, orderly and positive environment. Our goal is to enable each
student to successfully compete in a rapidly changing global
The date and location of the first school
classroom to be opened in what is now the Fort Plain Central School
District is probably lost to history. It may have been located in
somebody’s home or barn, in a church, in a fort, or in a one-room
school-house. In his book “Fort Plain- Nelliston History,” Nelson Greene
mentions a school on Sand Hill existed in 1801.
What is known is that the first high school in
Fort Plain opened in 1825, seven years before the village
incorporated. It was a wooden structure on Division Street that
educated about 50 students. In 1835, a brick building with a
100-student capacity was built on Mohawk Street. Students from both Fort
Plain and from other communities along the Erie Canal attended the
school, which charged tuition for students in grades 9-12. In the
countryside, one-room schoolhouses became common wherever there was
enough families close by to support them.
In 1853, the village school began to receive
significant competition from the Fort Plain Seminary and Collegiate
Institute, built on “Seminary Hill” up Clyde Street. The large brick
building had accommodations for 350 boarders and 16 teachers. The
name of the school is misleading. It was really part grade school,
part high school, and part finishing school. Furnished board, room,
and washing was $4.62 per week with fuel in winter an extra ten
cents. Tuition per course in the early years varied from $3.37 to
$6.37. There were three, 15-week terms, which began Aug. 1, Nov.
21, and March 7.
The Seminary was co-educational for much of its
existence, with the Civil War years one exception due to a shortage
of male students. Students from across Central New York attended the
school, and several came from other states, sometimes from as far
away as Texas. In the 1870s, the Institute entered upon hard
financial times. When attendance dwindled to 50 students in 1878,
trustees decided to close the school.
About that time, Clinton Liberal Institute, a
school under patronage of the Universalist Church, was looking for a
new home and, in 1879, took over the Seminary’s building. An addition
made CLI a six-story brick building. The finished basement contained
a dining hall and art room; classrooms were on the first floor. Boys
were in the north wing above the first floor with girls above the
first floor in the south wing.
CLI was really a combination high school and junior college, or
college preparatory school that
attracted students from across the
Mohawk Valley and beyond. Many of its graduates went on to
distinguished careers, including Simon Lake, inventor of the modern
submarine. In 1882 a gym was constructed and in 1889 an armory
was added behind the gym. Athletics were important at CLI with its
teams sometimes playing against college teams in baseball and
football. Nelliston’s Bill Dahlen, who went on to a distinguished
two-decade career in the National League, played baseball for CLI
for one year.
With the rise of free public schools in the
1890s, CLI began to decline. Shortly before 1900, the boys section
was converted to a military academy with plans to eliminate the
girls section. CLI was destroyed by spectacular fire on March 25,
1900 and was not rebuilt. For more on the CLI click
Whilethe CLI was in
decline, public high schools were gaining popularity, especially
those that did not require tuition payments. On March 18, 1893, the
Fort Plain Free School District was formed when 339 people voted for
the union of Fort Plain and Lockville schools with 219 people
opposed. A newspaper article noted that many of the voters were
women, unusual at that time. Ten students became the first graduates
of the new district in 1895. Graduating classes in the early years
were small, including two graduates in 1898. In the early 20th
century, students from rural schools began to be allowed to attend
Fort Plain High School.
By 1912, the school building on Mohawk Street was
becoming overcrowded and in poor condition. Several of the lower
grades were taught in the Hackney Block in the business district of
the village. In 1914, the Mohawk Street school, overflowing with 400
students, was condemned by New York State as unhealthy. A new school
would have to be built. A logical site was chosen: “Institute Hill,”
where Clinton Liberal Institute had been located. By the fall of
1915, the new school was open.
The first two decades of the century brought
numerous changes in staffing and curriculum including the addition
of agriculture, mechanical arts, homemaking, required physical
education, expansion of business courses and others. Male teachers
began to be hired for subjects such as agriculture. The men earned a
higher salary than their women counterparts, who had to give up
their jobs when they got married. Teachers were actually allowed
five sick days per year with pay instead of having each day missed
due to illness deducted from their monthly salary. Students no
longer had to attend chapel.
By 1918, graduating classes started getting a
little larger, with 13 students receiving diplomas that year. In
1921, the old school building was sold to the Masons. Attendance was
about 500 students with about 20 teachers. As the decade progressed,
new teachers for subjects such as vocal and instrumental music had
to be hired. Kindergarten, which had been discontinued for some
years, returned. To alleviate the space crunch, the district rented
two rooms at the Masonic Temple (the old school building) for
kindergarten and first grade. Moyer Hall was rented for athletic
events. Because of the overcrowding, officials of District 14 (as
the village school was called) considered consolidation with rural
schools, but nothing came of it.
During the 1930s, transportation to the village
school became available for rural students, enabling them to enjoy
the expanded curriculum. In 1939, overcrowding was alleviated with a
major addition to the school, doubling its size. Besides more
classroom space, the addition included a gymnasium, stage for the
auditorium, and a cafeteria. Until the cafeteria was built, most
students walked home and back to school to eat lunch.
In 1940, Fort Plain had met state requirements
and officially became a junior/senior high school or “six-year high
school.” More courses were added and a librarian and a guidance
teacher hired. “This is a most interesting and worthy subject of
modern education,” a 1940 newspaper article said of the four
guidance classes taught at the school. “The Fort Plain School and
its work of today is second to none.”
By the late 1940s, more and more rural students headed for the
village school. There were still numerous rural school districts in
the Fort Plain area, however: Nelliston, Keesler’s Corners, Valley
Brook, Wagner’s Hollow, Walts district, Freysbush, Fordsbush,
Dutchtown, East Stone Arabia, Stone Arabia (2 districts),
Hallsville, Frog City (Danube), Lenecker, Sand Hill, and Marshville
By 1949, pressure for
considerable. By 1951, 85% of school districts in New York State
were centralized including those surrounding Fort Plain. On June 28
of that year, voters in 16 districts of Fort Plain and vicinity
approved centralization. Some students continued to attend rural
With new rural students and the first “baby
boomers” coming of school age, it was clear to school officials that
more space would be needed. On Sept. 5, 1952, voters gave approval
for the purchase of 20.57 acres of land at the end of Clyde Street:
16.5 acres of farmland belonging to Diego Musso and Salvatore
D’Arrigo with the rest owned by the Fort Plain Cemetery Association.
Total cost of the land was $8,600.
In April 1953, ten rural schools (not including
Nelliston) still educated 128 students in grades 1-6. The Nelliston
School had about 80 students. Three classes were held at the Masonic
Temple with two more ready to go there.
(Click here for a photo of the Nelliston School, 1958)
District residents went to the polls on June 28,
1953 to vote on construction of a 23-classroom elementary school at
an estimated cost of $1.29 million. State aid covered $561,142 of
that amount. The vote was 562-284 in favor of the project but,
because a two-thirds majority was needed for approval, the
proposition lost by two votes. There were 10 void ballots. After a
second vote in July also failed to garner a two-thirds majority, the
school board scaled back the project to $1.15 million, an amount
that would only require a majority yes vote under state financing
rules. On Sept. 11, voters approved the revised project by a margin
Cornerstone of Fort Plain Elementary School was
laid on Oct. 14, 1954. A metal box containing school-related items
and other artifacts of the era was imbedded in it. About 620
students began attending the school in the fall of 1955. On Jan. 29,
1956, the school was formally dedicated. About 1,300 people attended
the dedication in the gymnasium with 200 more in the hallways. It is
likely the most people ever to attend an indoor event in Fort Plain.
Just five years after its opening, more space was
needed at the elementary school. An addition in 1961 made it
possible for students from the two remaining rural schools, Nelliston and Brookman’s Corners to attend the central school from
kindergarten onward. Both of those schools closed, with the
Brookman’s Corners school one of the last one-room schoolhouses in
the state to close.
Expansion and improvements to both schools have continued over the
past half century, due to expanding needs of students in the modern
A 1981 building project brought renovations and
energy conservation improvements to both schools. A wing dedicated
to John E. Ridder, supervising principal of Fort Plain schools
1935-62, was added to the elementary school. The seventh grade was moved
to this school.
Additions to both schools were built in 1986 and
the elementary school was renamed to honor Harry Hoag, longtime and
beloved custodian at the school. A vote to consolidate Fort Plain,
St. Johnsville, and Canajoharie school districts in 1988 failed
in all three districts.
In 1996, the junior/senior high school was almost
completely renovated including a new gymnasium and library / media
center. The seventh grade returned to the junior-senior high school.
During the 1990s, like every other school district across the state, Fort Plain had
to keep pace with technology, especially computer technology.
Computer rooms were built and computers became commonplace in
classrooms. A distance learning room was added. Other changes
included an increased focus on special education, more testing
required by New York State, more focus on teaching Spanish, and
In February, 2008 voters approved a $17.2 million
capital project, which included a new bus garage, numerous
improvements to the elementary school, and an addition to the high
school. Groundbreaking took place in the summer of 2009. The project
was completed at the end of 2010.
In the first quarter of the 21st century and
beyond, one thing is certain: education, curriculum, and facilities
will continue to change the way they have over the course of more
centuries of education in Fort Plain.
This page is maintained according to the Web publishing guidelines of the Fort Plain Central School District. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
The district is not responsible for facts, opinions, or images contained
on any linked site.
This web site was produced in cooperation with the Capital Region BOCES Communications Service, Albany, NY.