Schools Traced From Log Cabin to Present Capabilities
The growth of Peoria public schools parallels, to a great extent, growth of the city itself.
From the first school established 140 years ago, built of unhewn legs, clinked and lobbed with mud using grease paper windows and heated by a fireplace, to the 29 modern schools of today, Peoria schools have prepared thousands of children for their places in society.
The story is being told in a series of color slides and accompanying narration which have been prepared under supervision of Robert O. Burt, director of pupil services for Peoria schools. New teachers were the first to see them. A showing was presented last Friday during a new teacher conference at the School Administration building.
The first school was built just four years after the Illinois pioneer wilderness was admitted to the Union and Peoria was known as Fort Clark with only a dozen families living here, the script says.
"As Peoria grew into the outskirts, which is now the corner of Alain and Adams streets, the citizens were provided with a variety of private schools. However, when the city was incorporated in 1844, power was granted to the City Council to incorporate and maintain a system of public schools," it continues.
Today, with the city's population standing at more than 100,000, the school system provides education for 12,239 elementary pupils, 1,685 junior high school students and 3,327 senior high students. They are taught by 750 teachers in 24 elementary, two junior high and three senior high schools.
After Peoria was granted a school charter in 1855, the center of population shifted and one of the first elementary schools to be established was on the corner of Sixth and Monson streets where the public schools took over the old Stock School in 1856. Park High School was built in 1860 at the corner of 4th and Fisher streets and when the high school was moved to North Monroe street in 1876 the building became the first Lincoln elementary school.
TWENTY-FOUR YEARS later a new building was built which is now the old section of Lincoln School and in March 1960. a new addition was opened with 12 classrooms, ground floor auditorium-gymnasium, health room and office space.
The story moves on to Douglas School, built in 1912 and modernized in 1960. Lee School is the oldest school building now in use, having been built in 1889. An auditorium-gymnasium was added in 1948 and a new addition and improvements came in 1960.
Origins of other schools and their names are described, such as Tyng School, named for Lucy B. Tyng, a public-spirited citizen who was the only woman school board member until 1955. Garfield School was built by petition of voters to relieve overcrowded Blaine and Sumner schools.
Peoria grew to the south of Western avenue and Harrison School was opened in 1902. It is the city's largest elementary school with an enrollment of almost. 1,000. When built in 1932 Roosevelt Junior High School was termed one of the most beautiful and utilitarian junior high schools in the country.
Trewyn Junior High, built in 1950, has spacious grounds and a beautiful library. Manual High School boasted fine shops and brand new Manual is under construction.
Northward expansion led to the construction of Longfellow School in 1882 and it was the northern-most school in the city until annexation of Averyville in April, 1928. Kingman School was then brought into the city as well as Reservoir Heights School, which dated back to 1905.
Glen Oak similarly came into the school system and in 1936 Von Steuben was built to accommodate the northward movement. It is one of three Peoria schools built with help of PWA funds.
THE BUILDING of Woodruff High School in 1936-37 relieved crowded conditions at Peoria High. and the old Averyville-Kingman High School which was annexed to the city in 1927. Washington School was once the Fifth District School, located on the bluff west of 2nd and 3rd streets and then, on its present site which was purchased from the old Peoria University, its name, was changed to Franklin and finally to Washington after a new Franklin School. was built in 1892.
The newest elementary school district in Peoria is Thomas Jefferson, and its school was built in 1949. Calvin Coolidge is the only area in District 150 which is not in the city but rather Peoria Township, Peoria High School's present building was opened in 1916 but it is the city's oldest public high school. Sterling School, when it opens a year from now, will be the 25th elementary school in the district.
"Peoria's educational program requires modern teaching methods, modern textbooks, modern equipment and master teachers," the narrative goes on.
"In the 1956 and 1960 referendums Peoria citizens showed their confidence in Peoria's education program by voting $13,600,000 to modernized all Peoria public schools and built additions. The results have been gratifying."
EVERY CLASSR00M is a "1962 classroom" with adequate supplies and up-to-date equipment, it adds. Instructional improvement has been stimulated by the work of 21 curriculum committees whose 300 teacher and administrator members "have labored for two years to provide Peoria children with the best,"
As a result, all seventh and eighth graders in the city receive departmental instructions in science, mathematics, English, history, geography and other areas taught by specialized teachers. Modem languages are offered to eighth grade students on a selective basis.
Supplementary programs of the school district are a division to train practical nurses, an outstanding adult education program and summer high school program which attract every third high school student. Some 60 slides are involved in the presentation which will be revised and made ready to show to various community groups. Friday's program was directed toward the new teachers of Peoria's "professional team" who were advised:
"We hope that this will help engender the same enthusiasm in you that it has in all of us and to remember that America's citizens state, local, national— depend upon what we train them for. Yes, Peoria looks to you!"
Peoria Journal Star, Mon., Sept. 10, 1962, Staff Writer Art Andrews, From Sid Eslingers Collection, donated by Steve Slaughter, 2011,Transcribed by C. Horton- Genealogy Trails
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