The Freedom Valley Chronicles: Colonial School District And The Colonials

The Colonial School District is a relatively recent addition to the governmental entities in the Freedom Valley.  It officially came into being on July 1, 1966.

The “Colonials” existed even before the “Colonial School District” was formed.

This school district resulted from the merger of four school districts:  Conshohocken School District, Plymouth Township Elementary School District, Whitemarsh Elementary School District, and the Plymouth-Whitemarsh Joint School District.

On August 8, 1963, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enacted Act 299.  This legislative act incorporated a policy decision to eliminate many of the smaller school districts in the state.  The overall goals were to enhance educational opportunities, reduce overhead costs, and have the school districts become more efficient in operations.

While mergers were forced upon some school districts, other school districts welcomed joining together with their neighbors.

In this region, the Conshohocken School District fought the merger with the three other school districts.  Initially, the Conshohocken School Board voted in favor of joining with the school districts serving Plymouth and Whitemarsh Townships.  Five months later, the Conshohocken School Board re-voted and, this time, formally opposed the merger of the school districts.

The three other school districts representing the citizens of Plymouth and Whitemarsh Townships had been working together for years.  Each district had its own school board, but the management leadership was the same for these three school districts.

Despite opposition from Conshohocken, the efforts to stop the mergers failed, and the four school districts were merged together.

According to a news article in The Philadelphia Inquirer dated December 10, 1965, the first meeting of the new Board of Education for Conshohocken Borough, Plymouth Township, and Whitemarsh Township took place on December 9, 1965.  At that meeting, the Board initially voted 6-3 to name the new school district as the “Colonial School District”.  The other name being considered for the school district was the “Lafayette School District”.

After the initial vote, according to the Colonial School District, “those who had proposed the name ‘Lafayette’ withdrew the name thereby making the vote for ‘Colonial School District’ unanimous.”

For several decades, both Plymouth Township and Whitemarsh Township residents sent their children to Conshohocken High School as well as to other area high schools in Ambler and Norristown, among other locales.  Public schools in Plymouth and Whitemarsh Townships, for a number of decades, only educated children up to grade eight.

Prior to the mergers in 1966, as suburban development occurred, it became necessary to either expand the high schools in the boroughs or build a new high school in one of the two townships.  Plymouth Township and Whitemarsh Township residents decided – independent of state action and years before the creation of the Colonial School District – to work together, share resources, and jointly be responsible for funding the education of their students.

That cooperation led to the construction of the Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School.  The permit to build this new school was issued by Whitemarsh Township on July 21, 1952, according to The Conshohocken Recorder.

Through the years, the name of the school on Germantown Pike has evolved.

In the Fall of 1953, the name used for the new high school on Germantown Pike in news articles in both The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pottstown Mercury was the “Plymouth-Whitemarsh Joint High School”.  In July of 1957, The Morning Call newspaper in Allentown also used the name “Plymouth-Whitemarsh Joint High School” when referring to this school.  The Lebanon Daily News was still using the name “Plymouth-Whitemarsh Joint High School” in February of 1962.  In March of 1963, the Indiana Evening Gazette used the name “Plymouth-Whitemarsh Joint High School” when detailing an athletic win by members of the school’s basketball team, while The Daily Intelligencer wrote of the “Plymouth-Whitemarsh Joint High School” in a news article in June of 1963.  The Philadelphia Inquirer used the name “Plymouth-Whitemarsh Joint High School” when describing school closings for a winter storm hitting the region in January of 1964, and that newspaper continued to use that name in a news article in November of 1964.  The Pottstown Mercury used the name “Plymouth-Whitemarsh Joint High School” in May of 1965.

In November of 1965, for apparently one of the first times, the name “Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School” was used.  This occasion was an advertisement placed by the Plymouth-Whitemarsh Joint School District.

For a number of years, both a “junior high school” and a “senior high school” were in the same educational complex.  Typically, “Plymouth-Whitemarsh” was put in front of those descriptive terms.

At some point in history, the hyphen was dropped from the name of the high school.

Today, the Colonial School District uses the name “Plymouth Whitemarsh High School” for its largest school.

The first public use found of the nickname “Colonials” for students at the Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School was in The Conshohocken Recorder on January 18, 1954;  this news article included wording that stated the “Colonials Lose Two Games”.

That news article was published twelve years prior to the creation of the Colonial School District.

It is very likely that there were many cases of the nickname “Colonials” used prior to that date, but have not yet been found.

Other newspapers used the same nickname for the students and the athletic teams at the high school in Plymouth Meeting.  The Delaware County Daily Times wrote about the “Plymouth-Whitemarsh Colonials” in September of 1960.  On January 11, 1963, the same newspaper wrote of the “Plymouth-Whitemarsh Colonials” when referring to the high school’s basketball team.  The Bristol Courier and Levittown Times also wrote of the “Colonials” when detailing the basketball team at the high school in a news article in March of 1963.  In the following year, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a news article in March about the “Plymouth-Whitemarsh Colonials”, while The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a news article about the “Plymouth-Whitemarsh Colonials” in a news article in December of 1964.

All of these news articles detailing the “Colonials” were written in the years prior to official formation of the Colonial School District.

The photos of the mascot and the logo for the Plymouth Whitemarsh High School are courtesy of the website of the Colonial School District.

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