The History of Slingerlands Elementary School

This article appeared in the September 2016 edition of Our Towne. By author Susan E. Leath.

As early as 1843 the hamlet of Slingerlands has boasted a one room school, District Number Nine.  Teacher Abel B. Wilder kept meticulous records in his elegant handwriting. His list of scholars dated October 5, 1844 has last names familiar in the hamlet including Wands, Schoonmaker, Conning, Couse and, of course, Slingerland. Abel’s accounting of the school’s library in the early 1840s has over 100 entries on a wide variety of topics.  Examples include Swift’s Family Robinson, Life Sir Isaac Newton, Geology Elements, Counsels for the Young, Political Economy and Life of Dewitt Clinton.  In 1845, Wilder moved on to teach at the one room school in Delmar.

By 1909, the hamlet of Slingerlands was on its third school building, a brick and wood frame school that was built about 1882. It was deemed not up to State Education Department standards. Deficiencies included “not enough cubic feet of air space for each child,” light shining in the eyes of the children and not enough seating capacity.  Enrollment was at 110 pupils with it sometimes necessary to “place three scholars in a seat.”  In May, voters in the district approved $9,000 to erect a new school.  This building, completed in the late fall of 1909 still stands today at 1500 New Scotland Road. (Quotes are from the April 23, 1909 edition of the Altamont Enterprise.)

In 1941 (by then Slingerlands was part of the Bethlehem Central School District) the New Scotland Road school was in its turn deemed insufficient for modern standards and rising enrollment.  The new building on Union Avenue was to be of Grade A fire safe construction including brick and concrete cinder block walls. The design called for glazed tile wainscot in the hallways – a feature that is still present today.  Irwin Warren Whittemore of Troy was the engineer in charge of design and construction.

Monday November 24, 1941 was to be opening day for the new school. Students arrived to a brand new building that included a combined gymnasium and auditorium that featured a built in stage which became the setting for many years of musical productions performed by 5th grade students. There were six classrooms plus a kindergarten room. Over the years from 1941 to today, Slingerlands has had just five principals: James Smith (1941-1944), Mary Bida (1944-1971), Virginia Lows (1971-1977), David Murphy (1977 to 2000) and Heidi Bonacquist (2000 to the present.)

A vibrant learning community, Slingerlands Elementary School has continued to grow and serve in keeping with their motto “Always our Best.”