Hamburg became a borough in 1837 and in 1838 accepted the Free School Act, which declared each municipality an independent entity with the power to levy school taxes. There were several schools in the borough during that period.
The first graduating class of 12 students graduated in 1887, and a three-story brick school was constructed on North Third Street to house students in grades 1 to 12. The building burned down in March 1924 and was later rebuilt and housed students in grades 1 though 6 and later kindergarten, which began in the 1950s.
In 1921, a new junior-senior high school was constructed at the east end of State Street and opened for students in September 1922. In 1931 the building was enlarged, and the curriculum expanded.
On September 25, 1956, the directors of the Hamburg, Perry, Upper Bern, Tilden, Windsor, Strausstown, and Upper Tulpehocken School Districts designed a jointure arrangement. The 31 directors chose the name of Hamburg Area Joint School System. There were 2,127 students in the district.
On March 12, 1957, plans to build a new high school moved forward. In March 1958 a jointure of the Hamburg Borough School District and the Perry, Windsor, Tilden, and Upper Tulpehocken Township School Districts and the Strausstown Union School District formed.
During the 1958-59 school year, plans for the new high school building began to come together, and the Hamburg Area Joint School Authority was formed. On September 24, 1961, a cornerstone-laying ceremony took place at the Hamburg Area High School, and the doors of the new Hamburg Area Junior-Senior High School opened for students in September 1962.
At this time there were six elementary buildings: Strausstown, Upper Bern, Tilden, Hamburg’s Third Street building, plus the two former high schools in Hamburg and Shoemakersville.
The school board was reduced to the state-mandated nine members: three from the western districts, three from Perry/Windsor, and three from Hamburg.
In 1968, the vocational-technical school initiative was introduced in the district, and approximately 110 students from the high school spent part of each school day at one of the county’s two vocational-technical schools.
As a result of a 1969 feasibility study commissioned to determine the future direction of the district, the six elementary buildings were remodeled, and in some cases, enlarged to accommodate the increased enrollment.
In 1971, the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools approved accreditation of Hamburg Area School District’s academic program.
In 1974, a new cafeteria, library, remedial gym, and eight classrooms were added to the high school in 1974, in addition to some other renovations.
In 1982, due to declining enrollment, the Third Street Elementary building was closed and those classrooms were taken in by the Tilden and State Street schools. The former Third Street Elementary building now houses the Borough of Hamburg’s municipal offices, the police department, as well as local offices for state legislators.
The State Street Elementary building, most recently known as Hamburg Elementary, underwent a $3.2 million renovation in 1987-1988.
Enrollment figures rose again, and another feasibility study resulted in the construction of the Hamburg Area Middle School for grades 6 through 8. Its doors opened in 1996.
The high school underwent a $21.4 million building project that began in the spring of 2000 and ended the fall of 2002. It added a 30,000-square-foot gymnasium, wrestling and weight rooms, a 250-seat large group instruction room, administration offices, a community and board meeting room, and central air conditioning. The auditorium was completely redone, and other renovations included replacing windows and 300 computers.
The Tilden Elementary Center, located on the original site of the Tilden Elementary School at 524 West State Street, Hamburg, opened its doors on August 25, 2008 for 710 elementary students in kindergarten through 5th grade. The new center replaced four former elementary schools - Strausstown Elementary, Upper Bern Elementary, Hamburg Elementary, and Tilden Elementary.
The Perry Elementary Center, dedicated to Esther Ludwig, opened its doors September 2, 2014. The new elementary center is located at 201 Fourth Street in the Borough of Shoemakersville and serves approximately 400 students from Shoemakersville, Windsor Township, and Perry Township.