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Wyandotte County, Kansas




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Kansas City, Kansas Junior College

KCKs Jr. College on State Avenue

Location:  824 State Avenue

History of Kansas Junior Colleges

Other Names:  Previously Horace Mann Elementary School  (Named for Horace Mann, Noted educator) (first picture at left)

Originally opened in 1923 on the "wooden campus" on the third floor of old Wyandotte High School (aka Kansas City High School) at 9th and Minnesota.

K C K Jr CollegeSecond picture at your left was a second building of the Junior College and was formerly the gymnasium of the KCKs High School.


The enabling law under which junior colleges were established was enacted in 1917, and followed quite closely the national pattern for the founding of such institutions.  Kansas junior colleges were organized as high school extension courses, and continued to operate as such until 1965.  These schools were set up to meet the individual needs of citizens of the state; to meet increasing requirements for educated personnel in business and industry; and to eliminate barriers commonly affecting opportunity for post high school education, such as the absence of institutions of higher education in close proximity to persons seeking such education; financial obstacles; and the lack of motivation for continued schooling.  (Kansas Educational Progress, 1858-1967 by Adel Throckmorton, Published by the State Department of Public Instruction, 120 East Tenth, Topeka, Kansas 66612, Copyright June, 1967)


The PTA's of the city wanted a junior college.  Grant Landrey, board member, hoped the city could establish a municipal college like the one in Cincinnati.  The board talked of an arrangement with Kansas City University, although the law set limits on the amount of money which could be paid to a secular institution.  In August, the board decided that the building program must come first and plans for a junior college were dropped.


Requests had been made by patrons for a junior college.  In the April election they were asked to vote concerning a two-year extension of school service.  The proposal carried by a vote of three to one.  The new junior college would be ready by fall, and two hundred students could be cared for in the Ninth and State building (KC High School building).  (In 1917, Kansas had legalized the city having a two-year junior college.)  One half or more of the teachers could meet college teaching requirements.  In this way the junior college could be operated for several years  Sumner would house the colored.  Four subjects would be offered to seventy-five pupils at the white school and twenty-five at the colored.  The cost to the city would be $6400 and $8000 as tuition was free.  Forty-two enrolled in September in the junior college and fourteen at Sumner.  Two teachers assigned to the college were not needed.

The new high school annex at Ninth and State contained a swimming pool and gymnasium.  Laboratories and a domestic science department were included in the plans.  A tunnel under the street would connect the two buildings.


Changes in school personnel were made.  M. E. Pearson found that without assistance his office was getting burdensome.  The board, on his recommendation, elected F. L. Schlagle, Argentine principal, assistant superintendent.  J. F. Wellemeyer, seven years principal of a high school at Quincy, Illinois, succeeded Mr. Rice at the high school unofficially designated now as Central.  Former Cottey College president, J. C. Harmon, came from Nevada, Missouri, to be principal of Argentine.  Lewis Brotherson was named Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds to succeed Lawrence L. Brown.  Sherman D. Scruggs from Stowe was elected supervisor of the colored schools.


The Budget Committee of the Chamber of Commerce made a survey in August, 1925, of school expenses.  Taxes were too high, and the committee might discover ways of lowering the school levy.  By cutting out some services, six cents on the hundred dollar valuation could be saved.  Kindergartens, established over the years at the public's insistence, were declared an unnecessary expense.  Junior College, approved by a large majority vote of citizens, should be abolished or supported by the state.  Retrenchment on night school, where classes already had been cut, should be made.

Because no college credit had been given, fewer girls had enrolled in the Teachers' Training department during the years following World War I.  The course was lengthened in the 1925-26 term to three years.  College credit was given and a state certificate issued to graduates.  The first year was spent in the Junior College, the second at Horace Mann School, and the third in practice teaching.


The board sent the superintendent to a meeting of school men who were urging the legislature to provide funds for junior colleges. Twenty-five dollars was allotted by the Kansas City board for promoting publicity to educate the public relative to state aid.


The Kansas City, Kansas Teachers Training School came to an end in June, 1927, at least under the name it had borne for a long time. Rules were formulated for the organization and control of a school to be known as Teachers College. On the faculty M E Pearson, F L Schlagle, Russell L Wise, Bessie Miller, Emily Hall, Lillian Bohl, and Lucy McCoy, Director.

The Department of Education in Junior College was designated as identical to the function of Teachers College, which trained teachers for service in the elementary schools and added to the advancement of teachers already in service.  The state university and teachers colleges cooperated by forming extension classes.  Requirements in the new school remained the same as in the old - two years of college work and one year of cadeting and substituting.


First Year:

Graduation from a Kansas City, Kansas high school
Residence in Kansas City, Kansas
Sound health and no physical defects
Above average scholarship for the last three years of high school
Approval of the principal of the high school from which graduated

Second and third years:

No grade below C for first year

The teaching force in the city was recruited from two sources:  graduates of Teachers College and experienced teachers.  The latter, before being employed in the city, had to have three years of successful teaching in regular systems of graded schools of not less than six teachers.  A Kansas State certificate was required, with sixty hours that included nine in education.  New teachers with two, three, or four years of college work had to take some specific training.  Cadet and substitute work were required even of graduates.

The superintendent and a board member went to Lawrence in February to meet with others interested in aid for the junior college.  The board's attorney was asked to rule on requirements for the Teachers College.  Teachers facing retirement within the next five years were concerned with retirement laws.  The legal department of the Teachers Council worked on the matter.


Mr. J F Wellemeyer served as high school principal and dean of the Junior College.


For the new Wyandotte High School site at 25th and Minnesota, elaborate plans were made for a municipal Education Center.  Besides a high school and stadium, there was envisioned a junior college and administration building.  M J Ferren was awarded the contract in February for grading the old golf course.  Wyandotte was crowded and the location on Ninth Street (called Kansas City High School) gave little room for expansion.  The "sense" of the board was to set aside money for a new colored high school.  Argentine High School awaited completion.

Junior College and high school teachers presented to the Teachers' Association a comprehensive list of recommendations that would put teachers in a professional group.  Teaching was a career for most, they felt, and not a stepping stone to other professions.  Other members endorsed the suggestions.  A committee was appointed to work on an insurance plan for protection against loss of income due to illness.


On Monday, January 18, the teachers of the city were called to a meeting at Wyandotte High School (Kansas City High School - 9th & Minnesota).  When Superintendent Pearson announced that he had unpleasant news, everyone assumed it concerned salaries.  Instead he tossed what the newspaper the following day called a "verbal bombshell".

"I am getting tired, as any old man will," he told the assembly.  "There is to be a change in our relationship."

He went on to explain how inaccuracies came with age and that he preferred not to burden the system.  He was turning his responsibilities as superintendent over to his assistant of the past eight years, Frank Leslie Schlagle, and asked for his successor the loyalty which had been given him.

During the following days, the Star and the Kansas reviewed the life of this man who had spent 46 years in the Kansas City schools.  Matthew Edgar Pearson was born in Plainville, Indiana, on March 8, 1862.  When he was ten years old the family settled in Leavenworth County, but moved two years later to Douglas County.

Lacking a high school diploma, the young man entered Kansas University and finished his prefatory work.  He bought one horse and his father gave him another.  For five years he raised wheat on a forty-acre farm, letting the horses earn their way by working on another farm during the winter.  Serving as a janitor at a Quaker church, young Pearson was given a room for lodging.  By 1885 he had earned a degree and was ready to teach.  He married Miss Carrie.

Mr. Pearson began his last round of visits to the school in February.  Younger administrators sought his advice when he came to their schools where he spent a half hour in each room.  On February 10, the Hawthorne PTA held a reception at the Western Highlands Presbyterian Church.  Two hundred fifty people attended.  Instead of retiring to a life of rest and travel as he had announced he would do, Mr. Pearson continued as a teacher of education and psychology at Junior College.

Dean J F Wellemeyer sought federal assistance for his students in Junior College, as depression years had brought a drop in enrollment.  The government promised some Civil Works Administration jobs for young people.


The legislature declared school salaries out of line with other occupations and ordered a salary reduction for administrators, teachers, and all others connected in any way with schools.  Three choices were open to the Kansas City board -- to eliminate services, reduce salaries, or combine the two.  The board chose to combine the first two choices.  Free kindergartens, junior college, school nurses, and principals' assistants were dropped.  One nurse, however, for the whole city was retained.  Twenty elementary teachers were dropped.  In the high schools, pianists, matrons and 26 teachers were not employed.  The Teachers' Training Department was discontinued.  A 15% cut in salary was made and employees were warned a further change might be necessary before the school year was over.

When the legislature refused to authorize a tuition charge at junior college, letters were sent to parents of students asking for a voluntary fee of $25 a semester to keep the school going.


Schools in Kansas and everywhere in the nation were suffering from dwindling finances.  When the NEA, however, made an unfortunate error in publishing that Kansas rural schools were closing because of lack of money, Superintendent Schlagle wrote the organization immediately to correct the statement.  Mr. Pearson ran on the Republic ticket for the nomination for state superintendent and lost by only a small margin of votes.  Some citizens objected to his teaching in Junior College, saying that the master's degree awarded by Baker University was honorary

On Saturday, March 3, 1934, fire broke out in the Kansas City High School (Wyandotte High School) located at 9th and Minnesota.  The blaze spread through the air shafts to all parts of the building.  Through the efforts of Superintendent Schlagle and others, records and valuable articles were rescued.  Although plans for a new Wyandotte High School were in the making, the board was not ready yet to build.  Problems of housing and finances had to be met.

Classes at Central Junior and Northwest Junior were placed on half-day sessions so that high school students could use the buildings in the afternoons.  The gymnasium across the street was damaged and junior college students attended there.  After a week's vacation, the high school resumed on March 12.  A Citizens Advisory Committee was appointed to assist with plans for a new building.

On August 29, the board was notified that 59 junior college students were eligible to receive federal funds.


Workmen began remodeling the gymnasium at Ninth and State and the Horace Mann building.  An erection of an addition to Horace Mann to house Junior College students was planned.


On August 31, 1939, another link with early years was broken when M E Pearson resigned from teaching education and psychology courses at Junior College.  He had taught for seven years after his retirement as superintendent.  At the age of 77 he planned to go to his daughter's home at Nampa, Idaho.  Lewis H. Brotherson was named business manager.

Business and industry moved westward.  Junior College, now occupying rooms in the gymnasium and Horace Mann school, needed a home of its own.  In the spring of 1939 Horace Mann pupils were transferred to Central School and a two-story five-room addition built on the east of Horace Mann building.

A ground school aviation course at Junior College, established in September, was part of the National Defense Program.  The National Youth Administration granted Dean Wellemeyer's request for student financial help by allowing 61 students to serve as laboratory and research assistants at a salary of $10 per month.  These assistants did not replace regular Board of Education employees.

Five members of the original faculty who opened the school in 1923 on the "wooden campus" on the third floor of old Wyandotte High School were:  Violetta Garrett, Sadie B Mann, Lucy T Dougherty, Maude B Van Cleave, and Christine Wenrich.  C F Kukuk and Ed Ash were athletic and basketball and track coaches.


A definite program for defense was set up in August, 1940.  Main provisions were:

Welding and similar courses organized in the new Argentine machine shop, with three eight-hour shifts in operation.

A National Defense Training School at 9th and Washington (old Sumner building) had 20 teachers to instruct 500 students in skills necessary in war plants.  Four six-hour shifts operated there.

Refresher courses at Sumner and student training in the machine shops.

Flight instruction at Junior College where 125 students were trained under government supervision.  Flying practice was conducted at Fairfax Airport.

An "A" course in engineering for men already employed as engineers and a "B" course for high school graduates and unemployed men in the field, also at Junior College.

Provision for instruction for out-of-school youths by the National Youth Administration in laboratories and machine shops.


Defense work, started before the war, received a new impetus.  The sheet metal works at the new Sumner building operated 24 hours a day.  Argentine High School shops were put into use.  Negro and white women trained for jobs to replace men entering the service.  Kansas City was the only center between Omaha and St. Louis for the training of mechanics and helpers for the signal corps.  The board cooperated with the United States Navy by providing ground training in Junior College for trainees.  At the Eddie Fisher Airport, near Edwardsville, flight training went on.


School schedules were:
Junior College - 8 am to 1 pm
Senior high schools - 8 am to 2:30 pm
Junior high schools - 9 am to 3:30 pm
Elementary schools - 9:15 am to 4 pm

The enrollment on opening day exceeded that of the previous year by 571.  Junior College dropped to 149 students at the Horace Mann building and to 81 at Sumner.  The superintendent feared compulsory military service might have to continue after the war and warned of the danger of its destroying freedom as it had in Germany.


Scheduled to open on September 9, school was delayed a week because of the prevalence of polio.  Only Junior College began on time, although teachers were on duty during the week.  In his address to the teachers, Mr. Schlagle told of the board's efforts in behalf of employees' salaries.  Although property valuation had fallen in twenty years from 143 to 89 million dollars, everyone had received at least a 30% increase since 1942.  Those lower on the scale were given extra increments as high as 81% for some.  The average was 45% above that of 1941-42.

With the return of young men from service, Junior College faced a housing problem of 635 students enrolled in September; 347 were G.I.'s.  In all schools, substitutes were needed.  They would be employed, the superintendent said, for several years in diminishing numbers.  Forty-one new teachers came into the system in 1946.


Operating costs of the schools rose.  Except in Junior College, where fewer veterans enrolled for high school, attendance in the schools increased.  State aid was disappointingly low, although the legislature passed an act enabling the board to increase the tax levy to raise salaries about 17%.  Because of teachers going into business and industry, a new salary schedule was made.  Instead of a year of 36 weeks, the school term was extended for the teaching personnel to 38, teachers to be on duty several days before and after the regular school time.  At the legislation session, a bill affecting teachers' retirement was passed.

During the summer of 1947, a twelve-week summer session was held at Junior College.


When Dr. Jesse P. Bogue visited the Junior College, he found much to praise.  The library, gymnasium and other facilities were superior to those in most junior colleges.


Overall history on this school's involvement with the 1951 flood.

July - The Sealright Company is setting up an art room for the production of new designs for milk bottle caps at the Junior College today


Of the 1958 bond issue projects, there remained three to be carried out.  These were the new library, and Douglass and Hawthorne Schools.  Land purchased at Quindaro provided space for expansion there.  To the north of the Junior College, land in the 800 block of Nebraska was purchased, the space to be used for parking until the college would be enlarged.  The board also secured a narrow strip behind the gymnasium at 9th and State.

For 731 students enrolled at Junior College, it was the first year of state aid, retroactive to September 1960.  With $39,597 received, the board was able to purchase new business machines, furniture and other equipment.


"In addition to the problems of aged and obsolete structures which remained in spite of the efforts of the 1950's, the district was also operating a junior college in seriously inadequate structures consisting of a converted elementary school for most classroom and office space, a gymnasium and science rooms saved from the fire when Wyandotte High School burned down in 1934, and a small renovated surplus property structure acquired after World War II. The "campus," located between 7th and 8th Streets, was divided by State Avenue, a major traffic artery."  Schools in KCKs in Years of Change 1962-1986, Dr. Oren L. Plucker, 1987


During the convocation of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, Dr. Oren L. Plucker (Superintendent) announced that since enabling legislation had been secured, he would now (1965) undertake establishment of the Junior College as a comprehensive county-wide institution with its own board and that efforts would commence to also establish a new area vocational technical school. Schools in KCKs in Years of Change 1962-1986, Dr. Oren L. Plucker, 1987


"In a special election on August 2, 1986, the BOE proposed the formation of a countywide junior college district and the subsequent of a junior college board of directors, independent of the school district. Subsequent to the approval by voters, the school district leased the buildings and all facilities and equipment to the junior college, and also provided maintenance and business services."  Schools in KCKs in Years of Change 1962-1986, Dr. Oren L. Plucker, 1987


Buildings, land and all equipment sold to the KCK Community College for $250,000.  Location of KCK Community College:  7250 State Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas. Schools in KCKs in Years of Change 1962-1986, Dr. Oren L. Plucker, 1987

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Mission of the Kansas City, KS Community College (formerly Kansas City, KS Junior College located at 824 State Avenue.)

"Founded in 1923, Kansas City Kansas Community College is a public, urban, open-door, and comprehensive community college. Its mission is to provide higher education and life-long learning to the varied communities in its service area of Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties. The College provides an accessible and supportive learning environment that offers academic, career, and personal development opportunities............."


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

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