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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas




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WPA and the KCKs Public Schools

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Roosevelt's "New Deal"


Public Works Administration - Government-funded projects to build public facilities; central to President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal job programs

Problems of the Great Depression


Impact on Health

Family Problems

Roosevelt's clarification of the PWA and the WPA:   (1) According to this clarification construction projects where the aggregate cost upon completion is estimated to be more than $25,000 shall be within the jurisdiction of the Public Works Administration. (2) Projects of any type where the aggregate cost upon completion is estimated to be $25,000 or less and all non-construction projects of a type designed to assure maximum employment principally to clerical, professional and white-collar classes shall be within the jurisdiction of the Works Progress Administration.

Roosevelt's "New Deal" and the Kansas City , Kansas Public Schools

Construction of buildings and portions of buildings, hot lunch program, child care programs, dams, electricity with the TVA, work-study programs were just a few of the features of the "New Deal".  Following is a list (in chronological order) of some of the happenings in the KCK School District..

1932  - The inauguration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the New Deal to the country, with an accompaniment of alphabet organizations, closing of banks, and the turning in of gold coins to the government.

Building was at a standstill. The board of education had issued no bonds for eight years. Lack of money caused the board to warn teachers of impending salary reductions.

1933 - Little building went on.  Only repairs and minor improvements on schools had been made, except for the grading of Sumner Athletic field at 8th and New Jersey.  Funds from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and the Civil Works Administration paid for improvements on grounds.

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.  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. 

1934 - Schools in Kansas and everywhere else in the nation were suffering from dwindling finances. 

On Saturday, March 3, 1934, fire broke out in Wyandotte High School, then 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 financing had to be met.

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

The first designs for a new high school on the tract at 25th and Minnesota were inspected on April 20 by the board.  On April 30, the insurance company paid $265,809 for the loss of the old school.  The board looked for a buyer who would purchase the ruins and salvage some of the materials.  At an election held on May 22, citizens approved a bond issue by a vote of 3 1/2 o 1.  During the summer John Carlson, board president, and Willard Breidenthal, banker, went to Washington to forward the board's application for $550,000 from the Public Works Administration.

Within less than two weeks the request for funds was granted.  Only one half the money approved for bonds in the election would be needed.  By July, floor plans made by a Chicago architect and Joseph Radotinsky were approved.  The old cornerstone, laid with such ceremony in 1899, was designated to be used as a marker on the new campus

1935 - At Prescott School the first PWA/WPA nursery school was established for working mothers.  Mrs. Mary Jannsen and five assistants cared for an average of 25 children each day until 1939 when the school opened at Morse.

1936 - Franklin D. Roosevelt and the "New Deal" met with popular approval and the voters elected him to a second term. 

After April 17, 1935 when final approval of the new Wyandotte High School was given, the board of education lost no time in proceeding with the erection of the building.  Contracts were let in June and July and during 1936 the greater part of the work was completed.  Firms awarded contracts were:

The PWA, bearing 30% of the cost, sent regular monthly checks to insure proper payment of bills.  After several delays the builders promised to have the school ready for occupancy by the fall term of 1937-38.  When the board bought ground to the east and south of the Argentine field, it was able to obtain funds from the government for grading and other improvements.

Federal allotments helped to make Huron Park a more attractive spot.  Under the direction of Henry F. Shaible, park commissioner, a new pergola and rose garden to the south of the library were almost completed in 1936.  The crumbling wall on the south side of Minnesota near Huron Cemetery was rebuilt.

The second Vernon School building for African-American students was constructed in 1936 by the PWA. The school building now houses the Vernon Community Center.

1937 - The new Wyandotte High School was accepted by the board on march 30.  During the year 1936, the government through the PWA, had paid the major expense of improving and paving school grounds.  In April the board voted $75,000 for equipment and landscaping at the high school, but the work was delayed until the government gave approval.  High School teachers moved into their assigned rooms in May to have them ready for the September opening.

At the dedication of the $2.5 million building on September 10, Governor Walter A. Huxman and Secretary of War Harry A. Woodring were speakers.  Student guides showed the building to visitors over a period of several days of open house.  Rosedale's stadium was enlarged in 1937 with PWA/WPA aid. 

The Kansas Senate aided school finance by passing a bill to lift bond and levy limitations.  In April, a tenure law applying only to Kansas City was passed.  The board was empowered to issue life contracts to teachers who had given satisfactory service in the schools for three years.  A 10% salary increase was promised for January, 1938.  Sumner, using every inch of available space for classes, was declared eligible for a PWA/WPA grant for building a new school.

Park School - WPA begins hot lunch program.

Rosedale's stadium was enlarged in 1937 with WPA aid.

1938 - With the completion of Wyandotte High School, the greatest school building program since 1922 began.  Five years had been set for the completion of the project.  Bonds for $751,000 were issued in January for additional ground and a new building for Sumner at Eighth and Oakland.  Plans were drawn by Joseph Radotinsky, architect for the board.  The contractors were S. Patti Construction Company.  Improvements on Rosedale High School and stadium were planned and the contract awarded to the University (Universal?) Construction Company.

At Argentine the first athletic field owned by the district for use of the school was begun in 1938 and completed the following year.  A new addition for the shop and several classrooms was started when land was acquired and houses removed for an extension to the building on the southeast.  Superintendent Schlagle said that space for vocational teaching was necessary as more children were in school because of the scarcity of work.

Weeks Construction Company began work on a new Parker School building on December 12, 1938.  Later in December an addition of a separate building for Northwest Junior was started by the Winn-Senter Construction Company.  Fred T. Wyatt commenced excavations and foundations for a new Attucks School (Argentine, colored) and also for an addition to John Fiske.

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.  Playgrounds at Eugene Ware, Garrison, and Northeast Junior were planned.  Frances Willard received some modern improvements.  For all of these projects the board received substantial help from the Public Works Administration.

1939 -At Argentine the Kansas City Structural Steel, long a part of the district, began the sponsorship of an apprenticeship program for boys.  Lights were installed in the new stadium, equipped with dressing rooms and having a seating capacity of 2,800.  The contract had been let for fencing and sodding.  An eight-room modern building was erected at Attucks at Bluff and Central in the Rosedale district.  A new Parker building was started at 33rd and Haskell, consisting of ten rooms, kindergarten and activity room.  Four rooms were added at John Fiske in Armourdale.  Enrollment at Cooper had dropped until it was no longer feasible to operate it.  When industry took over the district, the school was closed in 1939.

On December 15, Sumner students moved into the new cream and tan brick building at Eighth and Oakland.

Additional rooms and a corridor connecting the annex and the main building were constructed at Rosedale High School.  At Northwest Junior, seven rooms included those for shop, art and music were added to the main building.  For all of these projects, the government bore 45% of the cost.

1940 - At Argentine High School, four rooms, laboratory music rooms, and shops were added through money from the PWA/WPA. 

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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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