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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas




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History Overview

"History and Growth of Wyandotte County Educational System," Lewis D. Wiard, County Supt. of School Offices, 19 Sept 1963

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At the close of the 1931-32 school year, Matthew E. Pearson, who served in the school system 46 years, and was Superintendent 30 years (1902-1932), was asked by the Board of Education to write a history of the schools as he remembered it from 1886 to 1932. His information and remarks are included in the following overview...........research continues.........

"The splendid educational system of Wyandotte county, which is the pride of every citizen, had its start with the old Missions among the Delawares, the Shawnees and the Wyandots, long before the white settlers began to establish their homes here. The Indians themselves were progressive, ever striving for that knowledge which, as Spencer suggests, should best fit them for "complete and perfect living." ( Matthew E. Pearson )

The current Kansas City, Kansas school district came into existence in 1886 as the result of the Consolidation Act of 1886, wherein the cities of Wyandott, Kansas City, and Armourdale (including Riverview and Armstrong) were united, forming a city of the first class known as Kansas City, Kansas, which contained 10 square miles. The original school district was comprised of Central (Huron Square) - built 1868separate schools from the consolidated cities (consisting of 9 schools with an enrollment of 3,643 and 56 teachers) and organized under theleadership of John W. Ferguson, Superintendent. Those schools were:

Armstrong (1873)
Barnett (1880s or possibly earlier)
Central (1868 - Huron Square - picture at left))
Chance (1882)


Everett School 1881-1923Everett (1881 - picture at left)
Lincoln  (1857)
McAlpine (1885)
Riverview (1882)
Wood (1871).

For the year 1886-87, the cost per pupil in the grades was $11.40; in 1910 (24 years later), it was $24.06. (Note: At the beginning of the 2002-03, the cost per pupil is $1005.00 per school year - information provided by the office of Parent, Pupil and Community Services, KCKs Public Schools).

The first annual report of the schools of Kansas City, Kansas, gives the names of two people: Sadie Parsons and M. E. Pearson, whose names were on the teaching staff at the close of the school year 1931-32.

With the annexation of the city of Argentine, several school districts lying to the west and to the north of the city, and some additional territory in 1910, the district increased to 40 schools and over 5,000 pupils were added to the city enrollment. Twelve schools were added: Argentine High School, Franklin, Lowell (Argentine), Bruce, Emerson, Stanley, Oakland, Park, Chelsea, Quindaro, Bryant, Waterworks, and Kerr. The Lowell School, a grade school on the high school site, was immediately discontinued and the pupils transferred to the Franklin School. The name of the Bruce School was changed to the Lincoln School as a Bruce School already existed in KCKs. These new school districts brought to the Board of Education many outstanding financial obligations. They also imposed upon the Board the obligation to provide school facilities in these districts equal to those enjoyed in other parts of the city. For the work of instruction in these new schools, 72 teachers were employed. It was necessary to raise all salaries to conform to the city schedule and in the Argentine District to extend the length of the school year two weeks. The city schedule also made it necessary to raise the salaries of all custodians and other employees. The aggregate value of school property was $1,392,716. The 40 schools, the number of class rooms in each and their location, follows:

Abbott, Fifteenth St. and Troup Ave.; Argentine High, Twenty-second St. and Ruby Ave.; Armourdale, Fifth St. and Shawnee Ave.; Armstrong, Eighth St. and Colorado Ave.; Bancroft, Splitlog Ave., bet. Fifth and Sixth Sts.; Bruce, Second St., bet. Ohio and Riverview Ayes.; Bryant, Seventeenth St. and Webster Ave.; Central, Seventh St. and Ann Ave.; Chelsea, Twenty-fifth St. and Wood Ave.; Cooper, First St., bet. Central and Lyons Aves.; Douglass, Washington Blvd., bet. Ninth and Tenth Sts.; Dunbar, Sixth St. and Rowland Ave.; Emerson, Twenty-eighth St. and Metropolitan Ave.; Eugene Field, Fourth St. and Parallel Ave.; Everett, Everett Ave., bet. Fourth and Fifth Sts.; Franklin, Holly Street and Metropolitan Ave.; Garrison, 346 S. Eighth St.; Grant, Twenty-ninth St. and Nebraska Ave.; Greystone, Hudson St. and Abbie Ave.; Hawthorne, Waverly Ave., bet. Eleventh and Twelfth Sts.; Kansas City High, Ninth St. and Minnesota Ave.; Horace Mann, State Ave., bet. Eighth and Ninth Sts.; Irving, Riverview Ave., bet. Mill and Ninth Sts.; John Fiske, Valley St. and Wyoming Ave.; Kerr, 3650 State Ave.; Lincoln, Twenty-fourth St. and Strong Ave.; Longfellow, Sixth St. and Waverly Ave.; Lowell, Orville Ave., bet. Tenth and Eleventh Sts.; Morse, Baltimore St. and Miami Ave.; Oakland, Twenty-first St. and Muncie Blvd.; Park, Twenty-fourth St. and Ohio Ave.; Phillips, Third St. and Delaware Ave.; Prescott, Thirteenth St. and Ridge Ave.; Quindaro, Twenty-seventh St. and Farrow Ave.; Riverview, Seventh St. and Pacific Ave.; Stanley, Thirty-eighth St. and Metropolitan Ave,; Stowe, Second St. and Virginia Ave.; Sumner High, Ninth St. and Washington Blvd.; Whittier, Boeke St. and Gilmore Ave.; No. 33, Seventh St. and Shawnee Road

In 1910, the city had three well organized high schools, located in three well equipped buildings, all comparatively new and entirely modern. The enrolment in the Argentine High School at the close of the year 1909-10 was 174; Sumner High School (colored), 207; Kansas City High School, 1,035. The enrolment in 1932 was approximately: Argentine, 181; Sumner, 228; Kansas City, 1,060; total, 1,469. The total number of high school teachers employed in 1932 was 60.

On the completion of the south wing of the Kansas City High School and the north wing of the Sumner High School during the year 1909-10 these buildings were made complete high school buildings. In laboratories, gymnasiums, work shops, art departments, libraries, class rooms and office rooms, they offered accommodations for all the various departments counted essential to the work of a first class high school and a well rounded modern course of study. An analysis of the enrolment of the three high schools showed the following: English, 1,252; mathematics, 1,037; Latin, 738; history, 401; free-hand drawing, 368: physical training, 318; physiography, 281; sewing, 243; penmanship, 188; German, 187; cooking, 172; public speaking, 172; physiology 158; physics, 138; woodworking, 136; typewriting, 116; chemistry, 104; mechanical drawing, 85; botany, 72; bookkeeping, 64; shorthand, 51; commercial geography, 45; civics, 44; economics, 36; psychology, 35; French, 34; commercial spelling, 32; zoology, 18; metal working, 18; Spanish, 14; Greek, 6.

NIGHT SCHOOLS:  In 1910, Principal H. L. Miller of the Kansas City, Kansas High School, offered his services without compensation to organize and manage a night school to be at Ninth and Minnesota (building destroyed by fire in 1934). The superintendent of schools was asked to visit the night schools in a number of eastern and middle west cities. The matter was discussed before the women's clubs and the Mercantile Club (forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce) had a number of patrons' meetings, and strong endorsement given, in pursuance of which steps were at once taken to inaugurate a practical plan. Consent was given by the Board of Education and a school was organized which, during the term, enrolled 300 pupils. Tuition of two dollars per month was charged, eight teachers were employed who were paid two dollars per night. The success of the school was very gratifying and in 1929, the night schools had an enrollment of 1700 pupils and 75 teachers. Two years after the opening, I. B. Morgan was given general supervision of the Night School with the title of Director of Continuation Schools. Thousands enrolled each year and the Night Schools became a real institution to serve the people of Kansas City, Kansas. J. M. Marquess, Principal of the Sumner High School (African American students), early in 1910 obtained permission to organize and maintain a night school in the Sumner High School building.           

The enrolment in 1911 was one hundred and thirty-three, with six teachers employed. Tuition in these night schools was free to pupils under twenty-one years of age; twenty-one years of age and over were charged one dollar per month. Classes were organized in arithmetic, English, bookkeeping, penmanship, stenography, typewriting, Latin, German, French, manual training, sewing, physics and mechanical drawing. A large, enthusiastic class of foreigners has been taught to read and write the English language.

MANUAL TRAINING AND INDUSTRIAL EDUCATION: Manual training was organized for the sixth, seventh and eighth grades and the first, second, third and fourth years in high school. By 1911, the high schools were equipped with benches, tools, lathes and forges and machinery for cabinetmaking, wood-turning, pattern-making, forging and lathe and heavy metal working. In the grades are twelve shop center equipments.

"There was a great movement in education toward a more vital, tangible and practical form of instruction. As an expression of this, manual training became an important factor in every important school system. At first the sole object of manual training was to teach the child to make something with tools. It was then considered more and more that manual training was designed chiefly to bring the child into sympathy with the industrial side of life. Manual training took its place along with other time-honored branches as being an educative process and included ore than the handling of tools." ( Matthew E. Pearson )

"Industrial and vocational education began where manual training ended. It began upon those who were in the educational work and the industrial and vocational life in this country that our general school system lacked one school in order to be a complete system. This new school to complete our general system should not be a high school, should not be part of a high school, but should be a new institution into which the elementary schools lead the boys and girls who must enter industrial life. It must also be a real school in which all the educative processes of the mind are just as potent and active as in any other school, and just as the normal school is organized and developed under the care and the sympathies of the teachers, the law school of the lawyers, the medical school of the doctors, so must this new industrial school be organized and breathed into life under the care and the sympathy of those who labor." ( Matthew E. Pearson )

"Kansas City, Kansas, is a great industrial center. What the city needs at the present time is not a larger number of professional men, but a greater number of industrial institutions and a greater number of skilled workers - workers trained in heart, head and hand for the home, civic and industrial life of that great, growing, manufacturing city. It appears that it is time for the laboring men, the manufacturers, the professional men and the educators of Kansas City to get together in the discussion of the advisability of a great industrial school within its limits." ("History of Wyandotte County Kansas and its people" ed. and comp. by Perl W. Morgan, Chicago, The Lewis publishing company, 1911. )

Statistics of 1920 show the district had grown to include 52 schools consisting of 45 elementary, 3 junior high school, 2 junior-senior high schools, and 2 high schools.

In 1922, the district experienced an additional increase in size with the annexation of the city of Rosedale. By the annexation, the following schools were added to the number of city schools: Rosedale High School, Maccochaque, Snow, Whitmore, Columbian, Attucks. The Eugene Field and the Everett Schools were discontinued as white schools given over to the accommodation of African American children. The building that was known as the Eugene Field building was changed to Kealing. It was named in honor of Pres. Kealing of the Western University. In 1932, the Everett School was known as the Grant School in honor of Bishop Grant.

From the close of World War I in 1919 and extending into the 1920's, before the depression, there was a time of great change in education. The war had exposed many weaknesses. During the years came a great health drive. Free dental examinations and clinics were established. Children practiced brushing their teeth and joined an organization based on Knighthood to learn good health habits. Nurses, hired by the school Board, checked weights. First Aid classes became popular, and an Open Air room for potential tuberculosis victims was sponsored by the Junior Red Cross at Prescott School. Organized playground games began. Soap and towels became standard equipment, while the last of the common drinking cups were abolished. Citizens demanded a junior college and released time for religious instruction. Many obsolete buildings needed replacement. (1943 Dental Certificate)

After the end of WWII, the City boundary was reasonably stable until the 1960s when additional subdivisions and areas were annexed. The major annexations in this period were the Fairfax Industrial District in 1963 and the annexation of substantial suburban areas to the west in 1966. This later action included nearly all of the developed portions of Wyandotte, Quindaro and Shawnee Townships, which contained the unincorporated but identifiable districts of Turner, White Church, Bethel, and many other similar areas. More than 3000, inhabitants were added to the city population.

Prior to 1961, there had been 42 separate schools systems in Wyandotte County. After 1961, these 42 separate school systems had unified vertically under Kansas law into four unified districts governed by four separate Boards: Washington, No. 201; Turner, No. 202; Piper, No. 203; and Bonner Springs, No. 204. The Kansas City, Kansas Schools applied for unification status in December of 1965. Minutes of the Board of Education for January 3, 1966, indicate that the official name of the district became Unified School District No. 500, Wyandotte County, State of Kansas. The "common name" continued to be the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools.

Patrons of the Washington district voted to consolidate with the Kansas City, Kansas District (USD #500) in February of 1966, following submission of the proposal to the voters by the Washington 201 Board of Education. Under Kansas law, USD #500 had two years within which to accept the attachment of Washington 201. The Washington District was officially attached on January 1, 1967.

With this increase, the district consisted of 59 schools, of which there were 48 elementary schools and 6 junior high schools, 2 junior-senior high schools and 3 senior high schools. The geographical size of the district increased from approximately 36 square miles to 59 square miles.

Carnegie Library 1904-1966For over 100 years, the Board of Education has also served as the Board of Directors for the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library (including the Main Library, the Argentine Branch and the West Branch libraries). In 1902, the Carnegie Library sat in what is currently (2006) the parking lot of the Kansas City, KS Public Library. Andrew Carnegie donated $75,000 (with inflation, this would be $1,661,670.34 in 2005) to the Board of Education and the Carnegie Library was completed in 1904, standing and in use until 1965 when the current building was erected.

The KCKs school district operates its own transportation and nutritional services departments serving all schools in the district. It maintains a storeroom to house supplies and instructional materials in quantity for use and requisition by the various schools and departments of the district and a Shop office employing maintenance, trades and crafts persons for the maintenance of facilities and equipment of the district.

Voters approved a proposed $120 million bond issue at the Municipal Election Tuesday (April 3, 2001) to air-condition schools, improve technology, and make other upgrades to schools and public libraries.

Several of the schools of USD 500 have the distinction of being originally built/opened in the 1800s and are still in operation today. New buildings have replaced old, some locations have moved, teachers and students have passed through. But - the goal of the best education for students has not changed - the community supports their students and their schools - just as they did over 160 years ago.

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

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