Students line up to help plant a red oak tree at Oakland Elementary’s 100th anniversary celebration April 19.

Students line up to help plant a red oak tree at Oakland Elementary’s 100th anniversary celebration April 19.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Oakland Elementary School celebrates 100-year anniversary of first day of school

By: Taylor Christensen | Royal Oak Review | Published April 25, 2024


ROYAL OAK — Oakland Elementary School opened on April 19, 1924, and celebrated its 100-year anniversary by having a tree-planting event April 19, 2024, to commemorate the historical importance of the site and highlight “the community’s educational heritage,” according to a press release.

The school site previously was 4 1/2 acres of corn field. The spot was purchased by John Brinkey for $20,000.

Mayor Michael Fournier was in attendance April 19 to say some celebratory remarks before the planting of a red oak tree.

A historical committee was put together consisting of five people and met bimonthly. The committee worked as a group to piece together the school’s history.

Through their research, the group found a report of Oakland Elementary’s history between 1924 and 1984 written by historian Doreen McEvoy, who now goes by the last name of Dobson.

The school began as four classrooms, a library, girls’ and boys’ bathrooms, and a fire chute on the outside, according to the historical report.

Oakland Elementary’s building was designed by architect Frederick Madison, who built the front of the school to look like a castle.

In 1928, the first addition was built, costing $37,744. This added two classrooms, an office, a clinic, and two shower rooms. This addition was also designed by Frederick Madison.

Oakland Elementary was first a part of the Madison School District, which changed in 1942 when Royal Oak bought Oakland. According to the historical report, Madison parents were so enraged by this change that they stole desks, coat hooks, and lightbulbs from the building.

Since the first addition in 1928, the school continued to grow, and it now teaches 370 students up to grade five.

Dobson was a historian for three years, and is the reason why the city of Royal Oak knew about the 100-year anniversary of Oakland Elementary’s first day of school. Previously, the city only knew about the year of the anniversary.

After finding her historical report, Dobson was asked to be a part of the historical committee and was thrilled to get that invitation.

Judy Davids, community engagement specialist for the city of Royal Oak, said that Dobson’s help was significant.

“My people in the history committee found what Doreen wrote, we learned that just last week, we learned that the first day of school was actually this week, the 19th, so we were really happy that we didn’t miss it,” she said.

Dobson grew up in Royal Oak and has been a resident for nearly 70 years. She said that living here has been a great experience and that she “never wants to leave.”

“It has the feeling of a small town, but there is everything you could ever want within the boundaries — we are close to everything,” she said. “I love how liberal and open-minded the residents are.”

Although Dobson never went to Oakland Elementary, her two daughters did, and she said 100 years of a school being in use exemplifies the community that Royal Oak has and is a benchmark of a great school system.

“It solidifies the fact that Royal Oak is a great community, with old, established neighborhoods and families who care about education,” she said. “I was thrilled my daughters were in the Royal Oak School system.”

The tree-planting at Oakland Elementary also kicked off the spring tree-planting program that happens each year in Royal Oak.