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Wyandotte County, Kansas




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KCKS Public School System, 1819-1961
by Nellie McGuinn
Copyright USD 500, Feb 1966

Return to Previous Section 1960


The year 1961 marked the 75th anniversary of the founding in 1886 of the consolidated city of Kansas City and its school system.  From nine buildings and a high school of two rooms, the schools had increased to 39 elementary, two high schools, two junior-senior highs, and four junior high schools.  The country observed the 100th anniversary of the Civil War, and Kansas looked back on a century of statehood.

Fantastic events occurred.  Ham, the chimpanzee, was rocketed into space.  The vice-president met Bashir Ahmed, the camel driver, while visiting in Asia.  The People-to-People organization brought Ahmed to the United States, where he was entertained by notables and showered with gifts.  Headlines were concerned with missiles, space flights, and tensions with Soviet Russia and Premier Khrushchev.

After a semester of half-day attendance, Northwest Junior High classes occupied the new and remodeled section of the building on January 19.  A construction workers' strike had delayed the completion.  A double gymnasium with dressing rooms, cafeteria and kitchen, music rooms, and four classrooms were added.  Hundreds of patrons attended the dedication on March 9.

Classes at Northeast Junior High School, also delayed by the construction strike, occupied their new or remodeled facilities on January 19.  The facilities included a double gym with dressing rooms, kitchen and cafeteria, and mechanical drafting and industrial arts classrooms. The dedication was held on March 15.  At Central Junior a new gymnasium and dressing rooms, a cafeteria, kitchen and dining room were added.

The golden anniversary of Emerson's 1911 graduating class was celebrated on May 20 in the new ten-room building that included kindergarten, library, and activity rooms.  The old school in Emerson Park had been erected in 1890.  At the reunion, organized by Mrs. F. Cathcart Burton, members of classes from 1896 to 1912 were present.  An early teacher, Mrs. Alta Turpie Gear, attended.  She was the last surviving member of the first graduating class of the two-year Argentine High School in 1886, and a first teacher in the new Emerson of 71 years before.  Judge O. Q. Claflin spoke at the dedication of the new building on May 3.

It was the second school to be electrically heated.  At Stanley, also in Argentine, a kindergarten room, library, activity, and a classroom were added.  These new schools and additions provided classroom space for 110 pupils from Lincoln School.  Lincoln, at 24th and Strong, was the oldest building in the system.  Known as Bruce when it was part of Argentine before 1910, the four-room, two-story brick school once had housed the high school.

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 Junior College, land in the 800 block on 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 Ninth and State.

Library plans called for a new building to be erected in front of the old, partly on the "Grecian Urn" tract and partly on the park land fifty feet back from Minnesota Avenue.  A test suit was brought before the Kansas Supreme Court to determine the legality of the move.  Board members, visited Flint and Kalamazoo, Michigan; South Bend, Indiana; Topeka, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri libraries.  Lewis Brotherson, business manager, attended a library conference at Kent State University in Ohio.

For the new Douglass School, architects McLain and Sidorowicz planned to retain the eight-room annex and to raze by degrees the old elementary building, the former high school and gymnasium.  One story of the new building will be on the east toward Ninth Street.  The second story of the split-level building will be even with the playground on the west.  Three kindergarten rooms, a library, offices and a general purpose room will be on the ground level on the east.  Sixteen second-floor rooms will connect with the eight-room annex by a corridor.

A new five-room primary building at Hawthorne has been planned by architects Horner and Horner as the first step in an expansion program.  It will be erected on the east of the Haskell side of the building.

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.  Summer school classes in academic subjects and driver education were popular and increased in attendance.  An experiment begun in Wyandotte and then extended to other secondary schools, was the employment of "readers" for English papers so that teachers could be free of some routine work and concentrate on teaching.  Mrs. Olive Grundy became a full-time helping teacher to aid new teachers.

A new state law required pupils entering schools for the first time to have shots against polio, smallpox, diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus.  Violin classes reached a peak in enrollment of 829 and the Exploratory Teachers Program, in its third year in 1961, brought Future Teachers of America members to observe work in elementary schools.  Other activities carried on were spelling bees, selling of U. S. Savings Stamps and Junior Red Cross with its Care packages, eyeglass purchases and audiometer maintenance.

One hundred seventy-five new people joined the teaching corps in September, 1961.  At the opening convocation, Superintendent Schlagle described education as a defense weapon in the struggle for a free society to survive.  He listed physical fitness as a requisite in instruction.  New emphasis had come into the schools.  Use of machines for speeding up reading, practice in note taking, and the substitution of instruction for study hall were listed.  He noted the laboratories in use, rental books, and the use of newspapers in classes.  The world had entered the classroom with the stress on scientific discoveries and demanded more excellence in instruction and learning.  As the newly-elected chairman of the NEA Board of Directors, Mr. Schlagle again stressed the organization's demand for federal aid to schools.

In June of 1961, Miss Katherine Roth, a teacher at Emerson School for 50 years, died.  A memorial was placed in the new school for her.

Projects in urban renewal could bring a shift in school population.  The first public housing in Kansas, 34 1/2 acres bounded by Third Street, Stewart, New Jersey and a line in the vicinity of First and Walker, was opened to three families on December 27.  The tract is known as Juniper Gardens.  In Argentine, 18 buildings are planned in the vicinity of 35th and 37th Streets and Barber and Douglas.  Two other Argentine projects are Argentine Heights and Silver City.  News article on Juniper.

If a new school is built in Rosedale in the area around 39th Street, State Line, Elmwood, and Southwest Boulevard, the government promised to help with the cost.


The opening statement of Mr. Schlagle's letter of retirement to the Board of Education on March 8, 1962, contained the following statement:

"In 1939, the KCKs Public Schools established a retirement system for its employees.  On September 1, 1962, I will have completed my official assignment as superintendent of schools of Kansas City, Kansas.  I have administered its retirement system for many years and am now requesting retirement under its provisions."

The retirement system required mandatory retirement at age 70 of the year in which that age was reached.  Mr. Schlagle would be 70 on November 18, having completed a total of 47 years in the KCKs Public Schools, 30 as Superintendent of Schools.  Mr. Schlagle died on April 24, 1974, at the age of 81.

At the same board meeting, March 8, 1962, Dr. O. L. Plucker, superintendent of schools in Independence, Missouri, was named to the position of Superintendent in the Kansas City schools.  He would serve in the position for 24 years, creating a unique situation where, for almost 90 years, only three persons had held the position of Superintendent of School for the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools.

   End of "KCKs Public School System, 1844-1961" by Nellie McGuinn

"Schools in Kansas City, Kansas in Years of Change, 1962-1986" by Dr. O. L. Plucker, Superintendent of Schools    (Copy resides in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library)

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History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 02-Jan-2012

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