Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
State Library of Iowa

080_Nathan Weeks Junior High School


080_Nathan Weeks 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.

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Weeks Jr. High (Photograph) NATHAN WEEKS JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL S.E. 9th and Park Avenue Grades 7, 8, 9 On April 16, 1952, the school board asked for bids on construction of Nathan Weeks Junior High School. The bids were opened May 20 at a public hearing and A. H. Neumann and Brothers firm received the contract. This culminated years of planning a junior high school to serve the southeast area of Des Moines. Construction started May 26, 1952. During the summer of 1953 a prolonged strike of local building unions (May 1 to July 8) caused a halt on construction. Twelve classrooms were completed by September 8, 1953. The rest of the building was ready for use December 8, 1953. The lunchroom was not completed until February 8, 1954. Construction is now going forward for an addition of ten classrooms and a library to be added at the west end of the building. This addition should be ready in the spring of 1966. The move to name the school in memory of Nathan H. Weeks, for thirty-nine years a teacher and administrator in the Des Moines Public Schools and the first principal of Lincoln High School, was started by the Howe School Parent-Teacher Association. Mr. Weeks had been a long time resident of the district and active in all movements for the good of the area. Other organizations and residents of the south side where Weeks was a leader in community activities then backed the idea. Included were the Build Lincoln Higher Club, the Lincoln High School P.T.A., and more than seventy-five individuals who signed a petition asking that the name be given to the new school. Weeks, a graduate of Amherst College, who also attended Hartford Theological Seminary, entered the Des Moines School System as a history teacher at West High School in 1903. He later was appointed vice-principal of that building. In the fall of 1923 he was assigned to the new Lincoln High School as its first principal. He continued in this position until 1935 when he asked to return to the teaching of social science at Lincoln. He taught until his retirement in 1942. While at Lincoln he established a scholarship loan fund available to deserving Lincoln High graduates. The School Board voted to name the new junior high school for Nathan Weeks, July 18, 1951. Remarks About Educational Program, Accomplishments, etc. After the School Board approved preliminary plans for a junior high school to be located at S.E. 8th and Park Avenue, the architects, Wetherell and Harrison were authorized to proceed with the preparation of working plans and specifications. The building was to be located on 16.08 acres of land purchased from Edward Van Ginkel and Frank Gillaspy. It was to be of brick one and two story 356 by 252 feet. Glass bricks were used in parts of the building. No plaster was used. Waylite concrete blocks were the principal material. The only wood floors were in the gymnasiums and the shops. Asphalt tiles were used on all other floors. Although construction had begun May 26, 1952, a strike of building unions in 1953 held up completion of the building. Because of this strike school opened September 8, 1953, with only twelve westwing classrooms of the total nineteen finished. Therefore, double sessions consisting of six thirty-five minute periods were conducted morning and afternoon. There were 462 students enrolled in the sixth through eighth grades. The sixth graders were students from over-crowded elementary schools. Later there were just seventh, eighth, and ninth grade students. An old-fashioned hand bell was used to signal the end of classes because there were no clocks. The bell system was not yet working. The nurse's quarters were used as temporary offices. Small cardboard boxes that had contained blocks of floor tile were used as teachers' mail boxes. A school banner in memory of her husband was given to the school by Mrs. Alice Weeks. The banner was formally presented to the school at an assembly by Aaron Hutchens, Principal of Lincoln High School. It was designed by Carl Linder, art teacher at Weeks. It carries a torch and a portion of a favorite motto of Mr. Weeks: "Striving for Better Things and Finer, Fuller Lives." A framed portrait of Nathan Weeks was presented to the school by the Build Lincoln Higher Club. The presentation was made by Mrs. Fred Brown. Vice-principal Ralph Tomlinson accepted it.