Early in 1845 a group of Sterling Township farmers, feeling the need of an educational facility, met to organize a School District, known as No. 4. According to the first entry in the "School Board Book", dated November 15, 1845, the Board voted not to accept the newly constructed school. The reason for this refusal is not noted. However, the difficulties were corrected and on December 4, 1845 a receipt in the amount of $70.00, payment in full, was made out for the building of the schoolhouse. The first teacher, Artemicia Blount, was paid $28.00 per month.
The land to build the school was not purchased from the Burr family. However, there were eight Burr boys in the area at that time. Louis Burr, who owned and operated a brick-making business not far from the school, made the brick for the building, which was then named the Burr School. This name has been continuously used since the building of the original Burr School in 1845. Portraits of Louis Burr and his wife Eliza are displayed today in the lobby of the school.
In 1846 the school had a winter term which began November 1st, lasted three months, and was taught by a male teacher. The summer term began May 1st, lasted four months, and was taught by a female teacher.
Twelve years later it was necessary to expand the school facilities. On October 10, 1857 it was voted to establish a new school site on Elijah Bachelor's land south of his buildings. It was voted to raise $200.00 for the building. On October 17, 1857 it was voted to build a schoolhouse 26' x 30', 10' between joists, and erect a stone wall under the schoolhouse 3 1/2' high and 20" thick, to be completed in one year. Total cost found in the "Article of Agreement" mentioned $625.00. This addition to the back of the one room brick building was made of wood and painted white, changing Burr into a two room school.
In 1873 the school term was changed to one ten months long. In 1882, the school district purchased 25 soft maple trees to beautify the school grounds. In 1888, a school bell was purchased and a belfry was built at a cost of $25.00.
In the beginning of the twentieth century the school population continued to increase. In 1902 it was moved and supported that a new school be built. Plans were made and voted to raise $200.00 per year until enough funds were raised to build the new school. Plans were secured and a special meeting was called to submit to the people in 1903. In 1904 the Board acted as the building committee and was empowered to raise enough money to finish the school. It is this building which is pictured above along with Burr's students in 1915.
Around 1930, Burr's first hot lunch program was started by Katherine (Katie) Sekich who lived about one mile from the school. She drove her 1920 Ford to Burr and sold hot soup at lunch for five cents a bowl.
In August 1948 a special election was held and approval was secured for a building and site fund. In June, 1949 the Burr Board of Education was authorized to erect four rooms on the present site at a cost of $50,000.00. These rooms were attached to the building which was erected in the early 1900's. This new addition was dedicated in 1951, and is the oldest section of the school still in existence today.
In 1956, the Burr School District was annexed to the Utica Community Schools. Three years later, the Utica Community Schools secured voter approval for a bond issue. A portion was used to construct three new classrooms, a multi-purpose room and school offices to replace the brick schoolhouse built in the early 1900's. In 1977, a major addition and remodeling project added twelve classrooms, a new multi-purpose room, new offices and other remodeled and expanded facilities.
Between 1997 and 2000, the facilities of Burr Elementary School were again upgraded to ready it for the dawning of a new century. Computer and video technology improvements have allowed Burr's students to have an unprecedented window on the world. An expanded and remodeled Media Center serves as the focal point of these new technologies, with each classroom having access to the resources available. New classrooms and office space have been added, and the interior of the school has been extensively renovated.
Yet, Burr Elementary School will not allow its past to be forgotten in the transformation from a farming community of the nineteenth century to a suburban city of the twenty-first. In 1997, a replica of a one room schoolhouse, funded by the Burr PTA, was constructed at the school's main entrance. In addition to its significance as a symbol of Burr's history, this schoolhouse has two very significant links with the past. The bricks used in the construction of the schoolhouse were originally used by the Burr family in the construction of their home. The "L. BURR" stepping stone was used by people exiting their carriages in front of the Burr residence during the nineteenth century. The Burr home, which was located on the northeast corner of Ryan and Eighteen Mile Roads, was demolished in the summer of 1996. Although this historical home is no longer a part of modern Sterling Heights, part of the home lives on as a reminder of the rich history of Burr Elementary School.
This article is based on research conducted at the time of Burr's 150th Anniversary in 1995. Thanks are extended to Sheryl Pizor and Faith Terenzi for their many hours of work in helping uncover Burr's rich historical legacy.