Note: Most of the content of this article is quoted directly from an article written by Mr. Ken Schipper (former student, former Board President, and present parent of two Adams students) in the 1975 Spotlight. This school annual also served as. a commemorative booklet celebrating 25 years of covenant instruction at Adams. Due to the length of that document, much of its content could not be included here. If you are interested in that more complete history (with pictures) of Adams, copies are available at the school for a nominal fee. Except where noted, quotations are taken from Board documents.
Cal Kalsbeek, Present Administrator
It was with the need for distinctly Protestant Reformed instruction becoming increasingly evident that a group of men met on the night of January 28, 1937, in the basement of First Church (Grand Rapids) to discuss the possibility of starting our own school. It seems that little was accomplished at this first meeting other than that a committee was appointed to consult with Rev. H. Hoeksema as to the best way to proceed in the establishment of a school.
After a couple of interim meetings, a Mass Meeting was announced, to be held the evening of April 15, 1937, in the basement of Fuller Ave. Church for the purpose of organizing into a society. The purpose of this society was to establish a school of our own, “freed from the so-called Doctrine of Common Grace.” It should be noted that on that evening, after a brief speech by the Rev. R. Veldman, a Protestant Reformed Society for High School Education was in fact organized, The board, which was elected at a later meeting met on numerous occasions over the next couple of years, establishing a constitution, taking census, studying requirements for operation of a high school, and collecting data on teachers, pupils, and buildings. All of their deliberations, however, led them to believe that the interest of our people could best be served not in the establishment of a high school, but in the establishment of a grammar school. Upon recommendation of the board, a meeting was called for the evening of April 18, 1941, and progressed rapidly with a “motion to disband the society, and to thereafter organize an entirely new society.” After this motion carried, a board was elected and mandated to “prepare a suitable constitution, begin laying plans for a grammar school, and devise ways and means to raise funds.”
The board zealously set about the business of establishing a school, with the result that within a month a general society meeting was called, and our present name and a constitution were adopted.
Thereafter the board set about the task of locating a suitable building or lots on which to build. To say the least, during the next couple of years the board did much “leg work” which must have been in many cases somewhat frustrating to those early board members. Some of the evidence would indicate that all of our people were not one hundred percent behind the movement, finances were hard to come by, and when finally the board proposed to buy property, they found out that even more work had to be done.
From March of 1942 until the end of 1943 the Board busied itself with the matter of a location for the school. The sites considered included a YWCA building on Eastern Avenue, some lots on the corner of Fuller and Franklin, a plot of ground on Adams and Calvin, property in the Ball’ Park area, and the property on the corner of Adams and Fuller. The lack of funds greatly delayed and complicated the matter of purchasing property, but finally, at a society meeting in January, 1944, the purchase of the Adams and Fuller property for $4,500.00 was approved, even though money had to be borrowed to make the $2,500.00 down payment. After this concrete step was taken, things began to happen at a little more rapid pace. It seems that our people began to sense that the realization of the society’s goal was now within sight. The treasury began to build up. Churches sent collections, societies donated, and the Ladies Auxiliary became a big help with their financial support. By January, 1945, the final payment on the property was made, and the board pressed on.
By early 1946, a sign was erected on the property stating that this was “The site of a School for Protestant Reformed Education.” And, shortly thereafter, the board proposed to the society that a complete school be built during the next year with an opening target date of September, 1947. After retaining an architect and being advised by him that their present plans were not suitable, and with war restrictions on building materials, the board soon realized that the school could not be completed by the September, 1947 date. By late 1947, the plans for the school were completed, and at the society meeting held January 15, 1948 the society authorized the board to proceed with construction of an eight room school.
On January 2 1, 1949 the committee reported that the “foundation, walls, and fill dirt project was finished,” and on March 18, that “they have started with the brickwork.” Plans were made for cornerstone-laying ceremonies to be held in late April. Joy was evident on that occasion, where Rev. R. Veldman opened with prayer, Rev. .H. Hoeksema addressed the gathered crowd, Mr. Don Knoper led the singing with his trumpet, and Rev. C. Hanko closed with prayer. By late fall the plastering was completed and twenty-five tons of coal had been ordered.
In January, 1950, the society adopted the following tuition schedule: One Child in Kindergarten—$2.25 per week, One Child in Grades—$2.50 per week, Two Children in Grades—$3.50 per week, Three or More Children in Grades—$4.00 per week. In April, enrollment was held with a $5.00 deposit required. By June the Education Committee reported that all the teaching contracts had been signed (six teachers and one teaching principal).
Finally, after all those years (13) of anticipation and hard work, the school was ready to receive students. That must have been a momentous day, that September 6, when school was opened! Can you imagine the joy? Students and teachers numbering 235 gathered in that one building—dedicated to the proposition that all the academic subjects be taught from a Protestant Reformed perspective.
For the next two years the school had an enrollment of nearly three hundred students. Then, in 1953, a schism took place in the churches which drastically affected the enrollment at Adams Street School. In the ensuing controversy, many left our fellowship. In June of 1954, the enrollment was two hundred-ninety, but by September it had dropped to one hundred twenty-nine.
Now, of course, there was an excess of space and equipment. Desks were loaned to various other schools including our own Hope Protestant Reformed Christian School. One classroom was used by the Protestant Reformed Theological School to conduct Seminary classes, and two rooms were rented, first to the Redeemer Lutheran School while they awaited completion of their own building, and later to the Oakdale-Sylvan Christian School Society until their expansion program was complete.
In April, 1956 (the 15th anniversary year of the society) the board prepared a public meeting to “together express humble thanks to our Covenant God for all His manifold mercies and His sustaining guidance throughout the years of our existence.” On that, occasion, the Rev. Homer C. Hoeksema (now professor of theology), pastor of the First Protestant Reformed Church of South Holland, Illinois, spoke on, “Protestant Reformed Education . . . .a present privilege, a real responsibility, an enduring challenge.” A musical number was given by Mr. Robert Decker (now professor of theology) of the class of 1955, and closing prayer was offered by Rev. Herman Hoeksema of the First Protestant Reformed Church.
The years that followed were filled with events of interest too numerous to enumerate here, but of primary importance of course, is the instruction given and received. About that the editor of the 1956 yearbook (presently a parent of an Adams student) wrote: “In all our activities we have seen God’s hand. He reveals himself to us in all the subjects that we study in school, and we are also taught to be observant of his revelation all around us.” To the degree the instruction has accomplished that, Adams has served its students well.
Adams Street School can be justifiably proud of its graduates. As we look about us, we find some who have become Professors of Theology, engineers, officers of financial institutions, designers, businessmen, school teachers, ministers, and nurses. Many of those graduates have served on our Board. In fact, .our present Board President, Mr. James Decker, was a 1966 graduate.
Over the years, though many times it seemed as though the Lord led us “through the valley of the shadow of death,” He has richly blessed us; yea, we may say that “our cup” indeed “runneth over.”‘ For we know that, whether Professor of Theology or ditch digger, school teacher or housewife, our graduates have been instructed in the principle that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and that “whatever ye are called therefore to do; do all to the glory of God.”
What shall we say then? “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.” Let our prayer be, grant us the grace that we may be faithful to our calling that God’s covenant may be realized among us, and that we may continue to “train up our children in the way that they should go.”