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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas




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1883:  The six wards of Wyandotte included a school population of 923 colored and 2453 white children.  Less than 1/2 attached school.  The twelve board members held monthly meetings at the schoolhouse instead of in a member's office.  At one of the meetings, someone, possible the superintendent, suggested fitting up a room for an "infant" class, or kindergarten.  The board considered the matter, but decided against it.  People complained about the uncomfortable crowded rooms of early fall, due to the heat and the increase in population.

1886:  West of Tenth Street, except for some homes between Orville and State Avenues, the land was country.  East of Tenth, the mule cars still had their terminus at Sixth and Minnesota.  The council was making an effort to drain the pond on the north side of Minnesota between Fifth and Sixth.    Mrs. Alice Cheney advertised on January that she would accept children, three to eight years of age, for kindergarten and primary work.  The school was conveniently located at Third and Minnesota.  Children attending from 9 a.m. to 12 paid two dollars a month.  From one to four in the afternoon, the kindergarten was free.

The first kindergarten and manual training departments in Kansas City owe their establishment, not to a board of education, but to the Fowler family.  Upon her arrival in Wyandotte, Mrs. Fowler had been concerned over the poor living conditions among the colored people, the Exodusters.  These people had lately come from the South and were living in makeshift homes along the levee and lowlands by the rivers.  Mrs. Fowler visited the huts, bringing food and clothing to the occupants.  She instructed them in better ways of housekeeping and cooking and persuaded her husband to give them work in his packing houses.

In 1881, Mrs. Fowler established in old Kansas City, Kansas, an Industrial and Sewing School for girls eight to sixteen years of age.  Every Saturday afternoon between the hours of two and four, girls from all over Wyandotte County gathered.  At a cost of $300 to $400 a year, instruction was given in the best English methods of sewing.  Material was purchased by the bolt, and children were given the garments they made.  One time the school year closed with an English feast.

Miss Annie Fowler, daughter of George Fowler, started a kindergarten in 1883 at 301 North James Street.  Her father paid $6000 for a house and lot.  The school ran ten months a year at a cost of $1000, as there was no charge to pupils.  Mrs. Alice Cheney was the principal in charge of thirty-eight children.

1895:  Mrs. Alice Cheney and Miss Williams opened a private kindergarten in April at 804 Minnesota.  Mrs. Cheney had conducted a school for Miss Anna Fowler in old Kansas City, Kansas.  Her assistant, Miss Williams, graduated from the Kindergarten Department at the State Normal.  The success of Miss Cheney's school led to the demand of a public school kindergarten system.  [Annotation:  "Old Kansas City, Kansas" was the area later referred to as the West Bottoms where the cattle pens and slaughter houses.  The area just west of where the Golden Ox and the Kemper Arena stands in 2003.  The west bottoms was bounded on the west by the Kansas River, on the north by the Missouri River, and on the east by the Missouri state line.]

1896:  Patrons wondered about the establishment of a free kindergarten, especially for the poorer classes. 

1899:  The kindergarten movement, by 1899, was well started in Kansas City.  The Fowlers had initiated it with the school in old Kansas City, Kansas.  Mrs. Cheney later established a kindergarten of her own on Minnesota Avenue, and the public wished to extend the services.  [Annotation:  Mrs. Alice Cheney advertised on January that she would accept children, three to eight years of age, for kindergarten and primary work.  The school was conveniently located at Third and Minnesota.  Children attending from 9 a.m. to 12 paid two dollars a month.  From one to four in the afternoon, the kindergarten was free.]  Mrs. Cheney in 1898 attended the National Congress of Kindergarten Workers in Chicago and brought advanced ideas to her school.  The Free Kindergarten Association supported a school at James and Ohio, which 50 children attended.

1900:  The kindergarten movement grew in popularity.  At the Froebel Kindergarten at Seventh and Minnesota, Miss Blanch M. Richards and her assistant, Miss Haren, invited public school teachers to a demonstration.  The children from two to five years of age served a banquet to the visitors.  The public on the whole thought kindergarten training an excellent foundation for an education.  Children needed such training more than Latin or Greek, people said.

1902:  An early and continued supporter of Kindergarten Classes was Superintendent Matthew E. Pearson.

1904:  The superintendent (M. E. Pearson) made the 18th Annual Report for the schools.  He noted an increase of over 6,000 pupils since 1886.  From nine buildings the city had gone to 24, and the number of teachers increased from 56 to 204.  He listed the following needs:

  1. Manual training, popular in the high school, now needed in the grades.
  2. Kindergarten, established in most other systems, desirable in Kansas City, Kansas, especially in school where education stops early.
  3. Music, prominent with the help of a supervisor, apt to become tiresome unless given less time and emphasis.
  4. Language, grammar only in upper grades.  Must teach correct speech habits, free expression of thought and feeling, and accurate judgment of proper usage.  Thought-getting and thought-giving considered as fundamental purpose.
  5. More trades and commercial courses needed at the high school.  Purely academic courses fail to hold interest of all students.
  6. School needs to reach every child, 7 to 15.  New truancy law and services of an officer of great assistance.  A school for delinquent would help.
  7. Building need:
    • six-room addition to Douglass
    • four-room addition to Bancroft
    • four-room brick (John Fiske) to relieve Morse
    • Building fund for two years for the high school
    • Relief for Lowell and Prescott
    • North end school for colored

1905:  In answer to requests, the board ruled that a kindergarten should be conducted in the First Ward (old Kansas City, Kansas) during the summer months.

1909:  In June the superintendent arranged for another Lyceum course during 1909-1910, and established a kindergarten for Armourdale. 

1913:  A board committee recommended that if a kindergarten for colored children was established, the best location was in the lecture room of the Methodist Church at 8th and State.  As funds were low, the proposition was laid aside.

1914:  Educators talked of a New York school where children learned arithmetic by playing store and buying and selling goods.  The demand for kindergartens increased. 

1915:  The board planned a new division of schools and grades.  Elementary schools of the district would have children in the kindergarten and first six grades and the high school those from nine to twelve. 

1921:  Whittier was the first school to have kindergarten conveniences provided for in the original plans.

Hope was given up for a state kindergarten bill to pass, but Kansas City planned seven new kindergartens in addition to the sixteen already in operation.

1922:  Six kindergarten buildings were under construction.

1923:  The movement to establish more kindergartens was well under way in the spring of 1922. Frame buildings with fireplaces and modern conveniences were designed by Rose and Peterson. With twenty-five kindergartens, the city would have over half the desired number, unless prices for new ones were prohibitive. Otherwise Lowell, Central, Horace Mann, Irving, John Fiske, and Bryant would have to do without. Mr. Pearson remarked that the kindergarten year, formerly considered a "fragile theory," now was important. He hoped that soon every child would have kindergarten training before going into first grade.

Not everyone felt as the superintendent did about kindergartens. The London Heights Improvement Association sought an injunction against the board concerning the operation of kindergartens. The room was needed for older children, the petition stated. It was explained that as the people had voted the money for that purpose, the board could spend it only on kindergartens even if other groups were on half-day sessions. Miss Emily Hall supervised physical education and kindergarten work.

1925:  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.

1928:  The new year 1928 found the board with a shortage of cash, and all department heads were told to revise budgets and make a 10% reduction. Night school tuition was raised to $2.00 a month. Lloyd E. Hoke bought the Lewis building. Rosedale wanted kindergarten facilities for that section. The board promised that as soon as it made an extension of kindergartens, Rosedale district would be the first to receive them

1929:  Nineteen schools, still without kindergartens, petitioned the board to establish them as soon as possible.

1930:  Three schools were offered kindergarten facilities with the understanding that 25 children of kindergarten age must enroll and keep an average attendance of 15, otherwise the class would be discontinued.

A kindergarten and five classrooms were added to Mark Twain and the early rooms remodeled into a front hall, office and restroom.

1933:  The legislature passed four laws in 1933, two of which affected schools here:

  1. Tax limitations
  2. Reduction in valuation
  3. Placement of schools on a cash basis
  4. Adoption of a budget

As the board had been on a cash basis and a budget for twelve years, it had no difficulty with the last two.  The first two cut the annual income by $400,000.

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. 

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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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