The school year started that year on Monday, August 24, 1914. Hershey public schools had been growing rapidly since Milton Hershey opened his chocolate factory in 1905. Milton Hershey’s vision for changing the shape of public education in rural central Pennsylvania was first hinted at when he urged the Derry Township School District to establish a public high school, even though there was no town and farming was the predominant industry.
That high school opened in 1905, and while the graduating classes were small at first (2 students were in the first graduating class), the student body expanded along with the town.
Even though the McKinley School was enlarged in 1911, the school district quickly outgrew the expanded building. Enlarging the McKinley School was part of the school district’s plan to centralize and eliminate the rest of Derry Township’s 14 one room schools. The paint had barely dried on the walls when Hershey realized that a new larger school was needed. In 1912 Hershey announced plans to build a new school building that would permit the rest of the one room schools to be closed.
Construction began in 1913 with plans that the building would be ready for the start of the 1914-1915 academic year. The building was completed in time and school year commenced on August 24 with 600 children enrolled.
The modern building was built with room to spare. Its capacity was 850 students. The modern facility featured 18 school rooms for grades kindergarten through 12th. The school also included separate lunch rooms for boys and girls, a library, gymnasium, music room and play rooms for recess when the weather was bad.
I stand here very happy that I have been able to do what I have done for the public schools of Derry Township. Milton S. Hershey, remarks at dedication ceremony, October 18, 1914.
The building was dedicated on Tuesday, October 18, 1914. The date of the ceremony was scheduled to permit the attendance of state educational leaders. As a community event, more than a thousand people toured the building prior to the ceremony. The program began at 1:30 p.m. and featured music provided by the Hershey Band, speeches by the School Board president, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Internal Affairs, and greetings from area school superintendents.
In their remarks, speakers lauded the building for its innovation and the opportunities it offered to the students. Milton Hershey was praised for his generosity. As the Hershey Press newspaper wrote in its summary of the event:
It was more, far more, than the dedication of a building–it was the dedication of an idea. It is doing today what will be done tomorrow in all parts of the United States, the combining of small schools into central institutions fully equipped for the instruction of the boys and girls and with the advantages which the Hershey School offers.