Salina's Schools


     "Our" high school, plain old SHS, is currently getting a major make over, as some of us saw first hand during the reunion.  This is actually just another of many changes in the school system that have been going on since 1862.  A wonderful review of the earliest days through 1920 was written by Jennie V. Bartlett (1855-1921), whose name sure sounds familiar.  I'll hit the highlights of the history she wrote and add more recent events as I've found them.  The 1953 Trail, the first year in "our" SHS, also has a wonderful history of Salina's schools up to that year.



The 1860 population of Salina isn't recorded but it was only established in 1858 and by the time of the first school in 1862 the population was probably still much less than 100.  The first school was in the home of the city's founder, William Phillips, at Santa Fe and Iron Ave., the site of Farmers' National Bank in our time.  No records were preserved to tell us even the number of pupils, but everyone fit into one room.  The lady teacher lasted only five months before marrying and moving to California.

     The second school was a log cabin in 1863 on Seventh St. near the future location of the KSAL building in our time.  Again, nothing is known about the number of pupils.

     The third school was in the home of the male teacher and his family.  It was a two-story building on the popular 7th and Iron corner.  On the left is a sketch of the house drawn by a former student many years later.  The class was still in one room.  Drinking water came from a well on the lot.  In 1865 the teacher switched to farming.

     In 1865 the three school directors formed a school at Iron Ave. and the west bank of the Smoky Hill River.  The building was owned by a buffalo hunter and was a gathering place for other such hunters.  They hired a young schoolmarm from Manhattan, KS for $45 a month.  The room was 12x16 ft and had two-person desks instead of the long benches in previous schools.  Kids from east of the Smoky rode a ferry across the river to the school.  There were about 20 students ranging in age from extremely young to young adult.  This teacher married a local man and they remained in Salina.

     In 1866-1867 a new schoolmarm from New England had a school room on North Santa Fe on a building's second floor reached by an outside stairway.

     During 1867-68 Salina's population grew rapidly after the railroad went through town.  The Smoky now had a bridge and the town had a newspaper.  A man from Leavenworth was the teacher but even the location of the school room is not known these days.

     With an 1868 population in the hundreds and growing, it was time for a real school building.  Bonds were sold to raise $3,000.  The location was near "our" Barn just north of "our" Roosevelt Junior High.  There were enough students to need more than one room in this wooden structure.  The first floor had one large room; the second floor had two rooms, one of them for "advanced" pupils.  At first two teachers served the classes but it soon grew to three.  Grades 1, 2, and 3 with 50 to 70 pupils total had one teacher.  Thanks to the Salina Herald newspaper, the names of the 1869 pupils are still known. There were 58 primary students and 38 older ones.  The building served Salina until 1874 when it was picked up and moved to the SE corner of Santa Fe and Ash where it became a livery stable and a dance hall/theater.  Later it burned.


1870s.  1870 population was 918.

     The first brick school house in Salina was built in 1873-4 for $50,000.  The bricks were made in East Salina and stone for the foundation came from near Country Club Hill.  Trimming stones were carved in Manhattan.  The school was called "Central" and was for all grades.  Sometime later it became "Old Central."  There were three floors and a tall tower (right).  It had a furnace but plumbing was for the future.  I think the early grades were at ground level, seniors on 3rd floor, the rest spaced between by grades.  There were at least 7 teachers now.  The first graduation exercises ever held were in 1874 -- there were two graduates, a boy and a girl. Completing all grades was not a common practice back then. 


1880s.  1880 population was 3,111.

     Salina's population grew, helped by the trend for blacks to leave the South for work and homes.  Old Central alone could no longer meet the needs.  In 1880 a new elementary school was built on Elm between 7th and 8th.  This "Second Ward" school later was named "Longfellow".  (My father went to school there in the 1920s.)  Soon two more rooms were added to Longfellow, giving it six rooms.

     By 1887 there was a need for more elementary class rooms as Salina's population had nearly doubled.  Three new four-room schools were built.  The first to be built was the early version of Oakdale, then South Park, and Logan.  (I went to South Park for grades K-3 in a new rebuild after a 1904 fire.)  The population in the southwest area didn't materialized and Logan was soon used to quarantine smallpox victims instead of teach children.


1890. 1890 population 6,149.

     At an unstated time (I choose to put it in the 1890s) there were too many seniors for Old Central's third floor and class was held in the third floor of a downtown building on Santa Fe and Walnut ("our" Edgington's music store) while a High School building (left) was created at 7th and Mulberry, near the east end of "our" Roosevelt Junior High.  This, the first separate high school building, was already too small when put in service.

     My choice for the most inventive high school Trail of all those in the Salina library was created by the class of 1907 who had classes in this little high school.  In this photo they spell out "'07" in the yard where tennis courts had also been marked out.  Bounces of tennis balls must have been very interesting.

     This photo must have been taken from the tower of Old Central, which was close by.  This high school was probably torn down to make room for "our" Roosevelt Junior High which extended much further to the right.



1900. 1900 population 6,074.

     To fix the high school space problem the Washington High (that my older brother attended as a sophomore before finishing in "our" new high school) was finished in 1909 (right & below).  It was on Mulberry between 2nd and 3rd, within sight of the Smoky and Oakdale Park.  The first graduation class had 36 students.

     A grade school named for William Phillips was opened in 1906 on Iron Ave. near 11th.
















1910.  1910 population 9,688.

     Kindergartens became standard.

     Hawthorne, with the usual four rooms later enlarged to six, was built in 1912 on north 9th.

     Youngsters were taught temporarily in two basement rooms of Kansas Wesleyan until 1915 when Lowell was finished (on Highland between Republic and Beloit).

     Also in 1915 came "our" Lincoln Junior High (left).


1920.  1920 population 15,085.

     The population was 50% larger than in 1910 so more schools were certainly needed.

     Whittier was built for $79,000.  Roosevelt Junior High was finished in 1921.  In 1922 Dunbar was opened for K through 8th grade; blacks in grades 9-12 joined with the rest of the town.  Bartlett began in 1924 and Franklin (another school of mine, 4-6) in 1926.


1930.  1930 population 20,155.

     "Our" new Oakdale grade school was built on Iron Ave.


1940.  1940 population 21,073.

     The air base was established but perhaps not many military families with children moved to Salina.  I don't know that during the war there was a population growth spurt in children requiring more schools.


1950.  1950 population 26,176.

     Heusner grade school was built in 1950 and added onto in 1954 and 1956.

    "Our" High School was built for $2.25 million and opened in 1952.  150,000 square ft. of floor space.  (Washington had been used for 42 years, with the help of additional outside temporary buildings.)  First graduation had about 240 students (we had 300 in 1957).

     Dunbar had declining enrollment and was closed in 1955; black students went to other existing schools.


1960.  1960 population 43,202.

     In 1964 South Park was razed.


1970.  1970 population 37,714.

     The population went down after the air base closed, but still a second high school, Salina High School South, was built in 1971.

     "Our" high school became either Salina High School Central [Facebook], Central Salina High School [exterior wall and Salina public schools web site], or Salina Central High School [web site], and Salina Central for short.


1980.  1980 population 41,843.


1990.  1990 population 42,303.


2000.  2000 population 45,679.

     In 2002 Whittier was razed and Cottonwood Elementary built on the site.

     Franklin and Lowell were sold in 2004 and still serve private educational purposes.


2010.  2010 population 47,707.

     SHS refurbished in 2011 for $1,000,000!

     Major additions and renovation SHS in 2016-2018 for $30,500,000!!  (The 1952 cost was $2,250,000)


Other grade schools added at dates unknown to me:

Coronado, Grace Stewart, Meadowlark, Schilling, and Sunset.

One middle school Lakewood, has been created as Roosevelt & Lincoln were sold and made into low-income apartments.




        Just for Fun


     A city on the move just can't ever seem to have enough school buildings.  Salina's history is a good example. 

     How many grade schools our class attended that are still in use or even still stand?  Our high school is now over 60 years old and getting hard to recognize inside and out, but at least it still stands and is in use...along with a second newer high school.

     The population of a city has a major influence on schools in use and Salina has about doubled since were teenagers.  The activity at the air base used to surprise the population of students looking for schools.

     I've tried to track the growth of schools in Salina which means I looked for people who had already done the research and written the detailed histories.  Here's what I found.