West graduate Mary Woldt was among the first students to attend the twin high schools
By Kara Conley, Current Staff
With all the talk of combining East and West High Schools, it is easy to forget that they used to be one.
Mary Woldt, a West Bend West alumnus, was part of the first class to experience the West Bend High School as two. In 1970, when the current design was implemented, she was an incoming junior who feared what this change would do to her and her friends.
At the time, Woldt felt apprehensive and was unsure of what would happen now that there were two different schools in the same building. When the announcement was made, all those attending the high school at the time were very upset.
“There was a group of six of us girls, and two of them were sent to East and the rest of us to West,” Woldt said.
When a final list of who would be going to which school was posted, her two friends assigned to East were saddened. “They were crying so hard because they weren’t sure they would ever see us during school again,” Woldt said.
They came to find that that was not the case at all. The high schools operated as they do today. Woldt said she had many classes with students from each school and some on the East side as well. It was like they never really became two separate schools in the first place.
“There was a group of six of us girls, and two of them were sent to East and the rest of us to West.”
– Mary Woldt
It was completely different, though, when it came to extra-curricular activities. “People became divided and our schools’ athletic programs failed in some areas,” Woldt said when asked about the larger changes that occurred.
By the luck of the draw, a majority of the better athletes went to West, which made East considerably inadequate in conference compared to its neighboring school. The sports programs were weakened, which is one of the reasons why the school board is now reconsidering the configuration.
Becoming one school again might bring home more trophies, but is that what really matters when it comes down to a student’s high school years? For Woldt, high school is all about getting involved and being a part of something bigger than yourself.
“I believe the main reason they made two high schools was to give students more opportunities,” Woldt said.
She also has fond memories of the East vs. West rivalry. Woldt said that, as upperclassmen in 1970, they just wanted to be done with high school at the time because it was not fun anymore. The newfound rivalry between each other changed the dynamics among peers, families, and the community as a whole. “West is best and East is least!” is a chant that originated out of the growing rivalry, and West students still say it today.
“Now it has become a friendly rivalry,” Woldt said. She feels it is too late to change now. Students today live for this great antagonism that West Benders have grown up with and it’s what makes high school so memorable, she said.
The school board votes on the configuration question on Monday, Oct. 6.