Gary, Minnesota is a small town in northwestern Minnesota that is founded on the strength of its community. It's one of those towns where everybody knows everybody. Its most prominent building is its school building, currently the Norman County East Elementary School. For decades, the Gary school building has been the place of education for the children of Gary and eventually Twin Valley as well. On April 15, 2019, the Norman County East school board voted to close the Gary Elementary school building effective July 2020. This comes roughly one month after they voted to relocate grades 3-6 from the Gary Elementary to the Twin Valley High School for the 2019-2020 academic year.
The Gary school building was created to serve the educational needs of the children of the village of Gary. Over the course of the twentieth century, the building had some renovations and additions built onto it, including a library and gymnasium. It has also taken damage from natural disasters, such as a tornado in June of 1978. When enrollment numbers started to decline in the early 1990s, the Gary school district combined with the Twin Valley school district to form the Norman County East school district, and the Gary school building has served as the elementary building for Norman County East. Over the course of the 2018-2019 school year, due to costly repairs required for the roof of the Gary school building, the Norman County East school board held multiple meetings discussing the future of the building. Effective in the summer of 2020, the elementary grades will be moved to the high school in Twin Valley, and the Gary school building will no longer serve as a school building for Norman County East.
Gary School District
59 was organized on July 27, 1885. A one-room school house was constructed in the village of Gary
where the present school building is located. In 1905 the school house in the
village of Gary was erected. In 1936 a new addition was made to the Gary
School. 1937 saw the first official graduating class, which was composed of 5 students. Up
until then, students of Gary school had to undergo as much of their coursework
as they could in Gary and then finish their remaining coursework at any nearby
accredited institution. In 1952, more expansions were added onto the building. In
1977, the old section of the school building was demolished and replaced with a
new section that included a gymnasium, cafeteria, library, and more classrooms.
In the early hours
of July 5th, 1978, a tornado hit Gary and other communities in northwestern Minnesota. In Gary, three people were killed and many
more were injured. Many buildings in Gary were destroyed,
and although it wasn’t completely demolished, the school building took some
heavy damage as well. In total, Gary saw roughly $2.4 million worth of damage. $750
thousand of that damage was to the school. The addition of 1951 was the hardest
hit part of the school, which saw the roof cave in. The 1936 addition and the
recent 1977 addition saw minor damage. President Jimmy Carter soon declared the
area of Norman County a disaster area, and Governor Rudy Perpich sent in the
Minnesota National Guard to help search for survivors and assist with damage
1992 was a big year
for Gary, as they had several school board meetings discussing the possibility
of combining school districts with either Fertile or Twin Valley. They
eventually reached an agreement with Twin Valley, and the two school districts
signed consolidation papers in February to form the Norman County East school
district. The Gary Bulldogs and the Twin Valley Tigers would combine to form
the new mascot, the Norman County East Eagles. The Gary Bulldog mascot was not
quite done, however, as the Gary Bulldogs men’s basketball team had a historic
In 1991-1992, the Bulldogs only had one loss on the regular season and were
primed to make a deep playoff run. They were given the number one seed in the
1991-1992 Region 8A, Subsection 2 tournament. During the playoffs, they knocked
off teams like the Red Lake County Central Mustangs, the Waubun Bombers, and
eventually the Fosston Greyhounds on their way to becoming the Sub-Section
Champions. Unfortunately, this historic season would come to an untimely end at
the Region 8A Championship game. The Bulldogs were beaten by the
Clearbrook-Gonvick Bears. Including playoff wins and losses, the Bulldogs
finished their season with a 24-2 record, the best ever record in the history
of Bulldogs men’s basketball.
After the merger in 1992, the Gary school building was set to become the elementary school for the newly formed Norman County East school district. It was the home for children ranging from preschool to sixth grade. It served this purpose for twenty-seven years. For the 2019-2020 school year, it will still be the school building for preschool through second grade, and following the 2019-2020 school year, it will officially retire as a building of education. It will never be forgotten, and its walls are the home to so many memories of the children of Norman County.