Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
State Library of Iowa

079_Merrill Junior High School


079_Merrill Junior High School


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.

File Name



MERRILL JR. HIGH SCHOOL 52nd and Grand Grades 7, 8, 9 Merrill Jr. High School was opened for students in September, 1961. This building honored the memory of a man who had devoted the major portion of his life to the education of boys and girls in Des Moines, Mr. Albert W. Merrill. Mr. Merrill's long tenure is given below: Principal, Forest Home High School 1892 - 93 Teacher, West High School 1901 * 11 Principal, North High School 1918 - 23 Assistant Superintendent 1923-34 Acting Superintendent 1934 - 37 Superintendent of Schools 1937-41 With the opening of Merrill, the junior high at Roosevelt ceased to exist and it became a senior high unit. Merrill too, provided some relief for Hanawalt Elementary School. It is interesting to read in the Grieder Building Study of 1939, that the site at 52nd and Grand should house all of the elementary pupils at Hanawalt "plus a small junior high,11 The reverse has happened with a small elementary enrollment attending with a much larger junior high group. Jordan Elementary School stood on the Merrill site in the early part of the century. Specific information about Merrill is given in an abbreviated fashion below: Contract let — September 15, 1959 Site acquired — 1944 to 1959 — 9.5 acres Date construction started — September 19, 1959 24 classrooms Grades 7 through 9 Plus 4 elementary classrooms 750 students Merrill Jr. High (Photograph) 77 Facilities Staff offices, cafeteria, master kitchen Lecture room seating 250 Double gymnasium with folding bleachers seating 500; Library Future Expansion Two story classroom addition Contents 89,500 square feet 900,000 cubic feet Cost General contractor $1,081,147 Mechanical contractor 268,500 Electrical contractor 98,493 Total $1,448,140 Architects fee $ 42,407 Cost per square foot — $16.18, exclusive of Architect's fee Builders — William Knudson & Sons, A. J. Allen Plumbing & Heating Co., Weston Electric. Grades fifth and sixth remained at Merrill until the Fall of 1973 when the construction of a new addition to Hanawalt Elementary School allowed for the departure of the elementary grades. During this time the peak enrollment was 867 in 1968. Beginning in 1968 Merrill was designated as a receiving school for the Voluntary Transfer Program initiated by the school district to provide for better city wide integration of minority students. The first year eighteen students were bused to Merrill. The program expanded over the years so that 72 students were scheduled to attend Merrill in the Fall of 1975. Merrill has maintained a rather traditional curriculum through the years in terms of courses offered and skills taught. Most students tend to take a full schedule with many students taking a foreign language and many others involved in excellent vocal and instrumental music programs (Band and Orchestra). In 1972 Merrill became the first secondary school to provide a program for students with learning disabilities. For the next two years, until other schools developed programs, students were enrolled from all areas of Des Moines. Recently the school has been actively involved in other district programs such as Career Education, Business-Education Alliance, and remedial reading. Mr. Edward Bigot opened Merrill in 1961 and continued in the post of principal until his retirement in 1974. Principals of Merrill have been: 1961-1974 Edward Bigot 1974--John I Barrett