Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
State Library of Iowa

091_Grieder Study of Des Moines Schools


091_Grieder Study of Des Moines Schools


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



89 Forest Home School was situated on Forest Avenue between Thirteenth and Fourteenth Streets. In 1885 the principal of this school was Mr. A. M. Miller. Following him for two or three years came Mr. D. G. Perkins, for whom Perkins grade school of the present time is named. By 1889 two rooms had been added to the building and plans had been carried out to establish a high school. Mr. O. E. Smith had come to be superintendent of all the North Des Moines schools, for by this time the town had grown and other schools had been built, Summit, later called Given; Oakland, now Sabin being among them and and also Lake Park, now Clarkson. North Des Moines High School was then definitely launched in the fall of 1889, upon its long and honorable career. The high school department made use of three rooms and the hallway. One of these rooms known as the main room seated about seventy-five students and was used chiefly as a study hall, but it was often necessary for the teacher in charge of the study group to hear her classes therein. The time came when it was necessary for classes to be met in the hall, or down in the kindergarten room in the afternoons, and even as some of the students of that time may distinctly remember down in a cellar room, where physics and chemistry classes were held in very close quarters and with very little equipment. The first principal of North High was Miss Louise Patterson, a graduate of Grinnell College and a very lovely sweet spirited woman who left the impress of her own sincerity on the lives and ideals of many of her pupils. Following her as principal while she continued as a teacher of English in the school came Mr. A. W. Merrill, who stayed only one year at North at that time. The next year saw two principals come and go, Mr. E. N. McKay, and Mr. Samuel Cart. During these years there were besides the principal usually two other full time teachers and drawing and music teachers who also served the grade schools. At that time those boys and girls who did not intend to go to college were very likely to drop out of school while still in the grades or at the end of the ninth grade. A few years later than this, statistics showed that only ten percent of the fourteen-year-old boys were in school. With this in mind it is not surprising to discover that a rather large percent of the earlier graduating classes went on into college—four out of six in the first class; and four out of the five in the second, the fifth one is this group taking a business college training after high school, and so on, of course, the percentage decreasing as the larger numbers remained in high school until graduation. The curriculum at that time consisted of strictly college entrance subjects, English, Latin, Greek, German, mathematics, history and science with a little art and music. In the early 1920's, North High was becoming over-crowded. This condition was taken care of in the year 1921 and on for a while by rearranging the whole schedule for the day and running the classes in two shifts with home room period for the sophomores, juniors, and seniors at 8:15 a.m. with six forty minute periods until lunch period at 12:43, when many of these students went home for the rest of the day. In January, 1928, West Senior High was given up, because of the small number of students there. About one hundred of these students transferred to Roosevelt and over four hundred to North. Several teachers who had been at West also came to North. Every effort was put forth by all concerned to bring about as speedy and as perfect an amalgamation of the two groups of students as possible. Home rooms were formed of equal numbers of both groups, and the school went forward as usual, soon losing sight of the North and West idea entirely. The year 1929 marked the first activity toward again acquiring more room, which was then greatly needed because of the increasing number of pupils coming every semester from the three tributary junior high schools. Some years before the city had voted a $300,000 bond issue for improvement of the West High building, but for some reason the plan had not been carried out. The question of transferring this money to be used for an addition to North High building was placed before the voters in March and was decided favorable for North. As a result of this action, North High gained the whole new building facing Seventh street, including the boys' gymnasium, swimming pool, nurse's rooms, a much enlarged stage, and a complete change in the interior of the oldest building too complicated to be detailed here, but providing several extra class rooms, the little theatre, and the club or music room as they are now. 1939 - GRIEDER STUDY OF DES MOINES SCHOOLS The Grieder Report in 1939 on building needs said: "It is recommended that North high eventually be abandoned and a new senior school located on the site known as Haugo's Sycamore Hill Plat 2, across the river at N. Union and Sheridan. This recommendation was transmitted to the Board of Education March 4, 1939. Subsequently the Board of Education decided not to avail itself of the opportunity to acquire this site, and the city has sold it to private parties. "Proposal No. 2. A less desirable site except from the point of view of present transit facilities lies adjacent to the north edge of Union Park, between Second and Sixth Avenues, and extending north to Sheridan. Its area is about twenty-five acres. The land is low, would require a very large fill, and does not occupy a commanding position as does the first site. "Plant investment at North is so large that the operation of a school at this center for some years to come is imperative. As recently as 1930 approximately $200,00 was spent in remodeling the 1895 section and building a new addition for gymnasium and shop. Probably North cannot be abandoned for fifteen or twenty years. But when that time comes by far the best move will be to the large site recommended above. Immediate acquisition is strongly urged to protect the interests of the district in the future. Any other policy must be characterized as short-sighted." "The decision as to whether or not North shall be abandoned will affect the construction program. If North is to be retained for fifteen or twenty years capital and maintenance outlays should be kept at a minimum; if longer, the 1895 section should be torn out and replaced with new construction. The Survey staff can recommend, however, no other move than eventually relocating across the river."