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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas

1844
2012

 

 

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Cooper School

Location:

Other Names: Wood School

Building Closed: 1939

Note: Ed Asner and his sister (Eva) attended Cooper School in their elementary years. Mr. Answer attended Kindergarten at Cooper, later attending Mark Twain Elementary and Wyandotte High School after the family moved west. As an actor, Mr. Asner has numerous movies to his credit, playing "Mr. Grant" in the long-running Mary Tyler Moore Show, currently a member of the cast of "Studio 60 on Sunset Strip" (2007). The Asner family lived on James Street in what is known today as the "Bottoms" and the family maintains a business (Asner Iron & Metal) at the old James Street address. This area is rich in history from the first French settlers, to the landing of the Wyandot Indians in 1843, and with the development of the big four packinghouses - Armour, Cudahy, Swift and Wilson.

Architectural Analysis - Public School Buildings (New/Additions) by Rose and Peterson - 1890-1927

Architectural Blue Prints and/or Plot Plan of School Building

Cooper circa 1938/1939

(Picture:  Cooper School in 1905)

Kansas City Star Article - October, 1939

ON COOPER SITE SINCE THE 80s

Industries Have Gradually Replaced the Residences Which Formerly Filled the Neighborhood - To the Highest Bidder on October 2.

Closed because the steady growth of industry slowly enveloped it, the Cooper school on First Street near Central Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas, will be sold October 2 by the Board of Education to the highest bidder.

The property has 168 feet frontage and has a depth of 120 feet.  The 6-room building is of brick.  In front of it runs a switch track.

As far back as the latter '80s a school stood on this site. It was then the school of old Kansas City, Kansas.  All about it were homes and a block away was the busy James street district.  Across James street were the Armour and Fowler packing plants.  The workers in those plants and in the business district lived along Central Avenue, Wood street (now Second street), Ewing street and on the cross thoroughfares.

Then came the 1903 flood and the school building was wrecked.  The present brick structure was constructed in 1904.  When opened it was a "modern school," equipped with the latest desks and slate blackboards.  The name was changed from Wood Street School to the Cooper School.

But industry began to grow in the neighborhood and the number of school children decreased as residents moved away.  Serum plants and other industries that depend on the packing houses were established near by.  The homes disappeared one by one and factories took their place.  Rag and metal companies became neighbors.

Gradually the Cooper school enrollment dwindled until this year only a bus load remained.  Those were taken to the Riverview school on the bluffs.  With the closing of Cooper, the desks and slate blackboards were removed.  Now the building and site have been offered for sale.

SUMMARY

Prior to 1903 - See Wood School

1903 - February: Mercantile Club declared Wood unfit. New building needed. Money from special bond election in May.

May: Building damaged by flood.

June 6: Building condemned.

August: Rented No. 43 North First from W. E. Griffith.

August: Bids on new school received. Six-room, red brick. Some records refer to twelve rooms.

Architect was W. W. Rose. Address shown as 19 N. 1st St.  (Rose and Peterson Architects, 1994)

1895-1909 - W. W. Rose, Architect - The remaining schools designed by Rose alone are, for the most part, unrestrained interpretations of Classical styles. This group of structures includes Lowell Elementary (1897-98) and Irving Elementary (1900), two schools of comparable design which incorporate towers into the overall theme; Eugene Field (1900), similar to Lowell and Irving but with minimum articulation; Whittier Elementary (1908), Dunbar Elementary (1908), Hawthorne Elementary (1908-09), and Horace Mann Elementary (1909) which employ Classical detailing to otherwise moderately articulated facades; and Cooper Elementary (1904), which remains the most modest design from this period of Rose's Career.

On September 3, 1903, the name of Wood School was changed to Cooper. The History of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools by Nellie McGuinn. 1903 flood article published by the K C Star.

September 8: Name changed to Cooper School in honor of James Fenimore Cooper, novelist.

1904 - March: Moved into new building.

June: Superintendent M. E. Pearson wants kindergarten at Cooper School.

1908 - "The West Bottoms area of Kansas City employed various ethnic groups in industry and was situated across the Kansas River, to the northeast of Armourdale. Mexicans began working in the packing plants there in 1908, and found that their neighbors spoke languages other than English. Their elementary age children attended the Cooper School, where many of their non-Mexican classmates were also learning English. It was considered a transient area, with many temporary residents, and had no particular identity as a neighborhood."  (The Education of Mexican-Americans in Kansas City, Kansas , 1916-1951, Robert Martin Cleary, 2002, Book found in the KCMO PUblic Library)

1909 - Enrollment light.

1920 - "The lack of racial friction in the West Bottoms provided a sharp contrast to Mexican experiences in Argentine, Armourdale, and Rosedale neighborhoods. The P.T.A.s and other civic groups in these neighborhoods were prime actors in discrimination while West Bottoms mothers groups included all students. The Women's Commercial Club sponsored Christmas parties for the Cooper School students on an annual basis, starting in 1920. Mothers of students in the district formed a P.T.A. in 1926 and their members included "Mexicans, Americans, Croatians, Serbians, and Spaniards."   Mexican mothers in Argentine and Rosedale , meanwhile, were not allowed to join P.T.A.s in those neighborhoods, well into the forties, and efforts to form a Clara Barton P.T.A. were discouraged by Superintendent Schlagle in 1950. The reports in the Kansan reflected that Mexican students were welcomed in the integrated Cooper School , and progressed in English just as quickly as other children of Croatian and Serbian origins." (The Education of Mexican-Americans in Kansas City, Kansas , 1916-1951, Robert Martin Cleary, 2002, Book found in the KCMO Public Library)  ("Women Fete Cooper Pupils," Kansas City Kansan , 25 December 1925, 1)  ("Form Cooper School P.T.A.," Kansas City Kansan , 17 January 1926, 7b.)  (Eperanza Amayo, personal interview; Irene Ruiz Interview, Magdalena Rodriguez; Taylor, The Consolidated Ethnic History of Wyandotte County)

1925 - The "Know Your City Club" at Northwest Junior High School meets for the purpose of discussing means of benefiting our city.  They went to Cooper School and took with them flower seeds, flowers and picture books to the children there. (1925 Nor'Wester)

1929 - August 6 - Notice given that the KCKs BOE would terminate tenancy of the real property described as Lots 197, 199, 201 and 203, Wood Street.  Letter stated that tenancy would end September 5, 1929 due to smallness in attendance of the pupils.  Click here to view Notice. (.pdf)

1939 - School discontinued. Industry took over district.  "In 1939, the Cooper School was abandoned by the school system for low attendance, as a result of increased industrial building, and all students in the West Bottoms were reassigned to the Riverview School, which had only seven Mexican students in 1925."  (The Education of Mexican-Americans in Kansas City, Kansas , 1916-1951, Robert Martin Cleary, 2002, Book found in the KCMO PUblic Library)

A Chapter in Working Class History by Bill Onasch

PRINCIPALS

1883-89 - H. S. Gibson / 1889-91 - M. E. Pearson / 1891-94 - H. W. McKean / 1894-96 - Lapier Williams / 1896-1903 - C. W. Porter / 1903-04 - Sophia Bobo; U. A. Screechfield / 1904-07 - C. W. McCamish / 1907-08 - Della Maddox, head teacher / 1908-11 - Florence Dixon / 1911-14 - Victoria Eggleston / 1914-16 - Alice J. Talley / 1916-18 - Mary Nelson / 1918-20 - Isabel Frush / 1920-39 - Elizabeth S. Miller

Ward Boundaries

17th Annual Report of the Board of Education of the City of Kansas City, Kansas for the Year 1902 and 1903:  p. 99, First seven grades, six-room brick.  First Street, between Central and Lyons Avenues.  Boundary - All of the First Ward north of the Union Pacific tracks and that territory west of the Kaw River bounded on the north by Ohio Avenue and on the west and south by the Missouri Pacific tracks.  No principal listed.

18th Annual Report of the Board of Education of the City of Kansas City, Kansas for the Year 1904:  p. 22 - "Kindergarten - It is to be regretted that kindergarten training is not given to the children of this city before they reach the age for admission to the first grade.  Kindergartens have been established for so long a time in the schools of most cities of the country that they have become a recognized part in every complete system of schools. There is great demand for these schools in some of our school districts. This is particularly true in those communities where from the necessity of home conditions the period of school life must necessarily end at a much earlier age than in others. I would recommend that as soon as possible kindergarten schools be established in the Cooper, Armourdale, and Morse Schools.

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Contact the History Webmaster - Patricia Adams

History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 23-Apr-2014

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