Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
State Library of Iowa

015_North Des Moines School District


015_North Des Moines School District


This is a page from the collection "Bicentennial Reflections: History of Des Moines Public Schools, 1876-1976" by Dr. Robert R. Denny, published by the Des Moines Public Schools in Des Moines, Iowa in 1976.



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15 North Des Moines School District The growth of the city to the north ultimately required a North Des Moines School District to be formed. This was organized in 1875 in the Forest Home Building at 13th and Forest. Ultimately there were five buildings. Forest Home School held in the top floors the beginnings of North High School before it was moved to a new building at 7th and College. Other school houses included Lake Park School, later renamed Clarkson School at 6th and Boston; Oakland School, 5th and College, later this was renamed Sabin School; Summit School on the west side of 21st between Forest and Clark. Summit was later renamed Given School and torn down in the 1930s. The motto of the North Des Moines High School in 1898 was indicative of their feeling—"Third in size, second to none." A new high school building for the senior high school was occupied in 1896. This red brick structure located at 7th and College is pictured below. In passing, it is pointed out that the first principal of North High School was Miss Louise Patterson and the last woman principal who sat at the principal's desk was Miss Amelia Morton in 1905. (Historical Notes for the Women's Movement of the 1970's). The North Des Moines District came into the greater Independent School District of Des Moines in 1907 along with the others. Oak Park School System Continuing on to the north was another independent school district —the Oak Park Independent School. This district included, in 1864, what is now Capital Park, Canary Lake, and Center districts. Owing to the trouble over the location of a new school house, it was divided into the above named Independent School Districts. The Center District becoming known as the Oak Park School District. The school house that was erected at 6th and Madison was a K-12 unit. The original construction cost $10,000 and had additions within the next few years. It is interesting to note that Mr. Z. C. Thornburg was elected superintendent of Oak Park School District in 1894. He also had been superintendent of the Capital Park High School District and was later to serve as superintendent of the Des Moines Independent School District. The original Oak Park School building is pictured below. The third floor that housed the high school and the tower were removed in the 1930s. As this history is being written there have been structural problems with the original building and the present indications are that the old section of oak park might be torn down in 1976. Oak Park,(Photograph) 6th and Madison Riley, (Photograph) 53rd and Urbandale Need for Merger In doing research for this Bicentennial history one finds remarks about the inefficiency of running many small independent school districts. There was debate as to the efficiency of these separate units. However, others pointed out that the boards act "much more intelligently, not always much more wisely, however, than boards whose information comes to them from other than personal acquaintances—the patrons of (small) schools are able to assert their rights much more easily than in a large system of schools." However, others pointed out some of the disadvantages of small school units. They countered "there is a great loss of supervisory talent. For example, a supervisor of kindergardens could give attention to 30 schools about as well as to 15. At one time West Des Moines paid $1,200 for the supervision of eight kindergartens and North Des Moines paid $900 for the supervision of four kindergartens. Now, it seems that one supervisor could attended to the 12 schools and thus saving a large amount of money." The argument continued that the same things could be said of the supervisors of music, drawing, physical culture, and primary work. Henry Sahin SchooL (Photograph) 5th and College Saylor School, (Photograph) Euclid and Cambridge