delganyschoolThe first school bells in Denver rang out on October 3, 1859 when professor Owen J. Goldrick opened his “Union School”. The school, a log cabin, was located on the west side of 12th Street between Larimer and Market Streets. It was a private school with an enrollment of thirteen children and lasted until late in the winter of 1859-60.

It was the time of the gold rush in Denver when Goldrick arrived and started his private school. He continued in education for many years but later dealt in journalism in other parts of the country. However, Goldrick is credited with being the first school teacher in Denver.

owenjgoldrickUnion School resumed classes on May 7, 1860 with Goldrick and an assistant, Miss Miller. On the same day, another private school was established by Miss Indian Sopris on 11th Street near Curtis. Both Miss Miller and Miss Sopris were the first women school teachers in Denver. Later, that same month, a Miss Lydia Maria Ring opened her private school in a log cabin on the southeast corner of 14th and Market Streets. Shortly thereafter, she moved the school into better quarters at 16th and Market in a building owned by T.J. Bayaud. Miss Ring taught in Denver for the next four years.

Many other private schools followed the establishment of these early private schools, but Denver was still without a public school. This was to change when the new territorial government brought into existence the office of superintendent of schools November 7, 1861. The following month, on December 2nd, Owen J. Goldrick was appointed Superintendent of Schools for Arapahoe County. Getting the school districts established was no easy task for it took nearly a year to set up the first two districts in the county. They were the East Denver District and the West Denver District with Cherry Creek being the dividing line.

cheltenhamschoolEast Denver District became District No. 1 and was formally organized October 23, 1882. The West Denver District became District No. 2 on October 25 of the same year.

District No. 1 may have been organized first, but District No. 2 was the first to have a school building. A large room was rented in a building at 16th and Market Streets which was called “Mr. Bayaud’s Room”. The school, known as Bayaud School, opened on December 10, 1862 and lasted until the spring of 1864. The following year the school was not opened for one very simple reason – no money.

broadwayschoolTax receipts were not enough to keep the school going but on May 10, 1866, the district was financially able to rent space in a brick building at 18th and Larimer Streets, site of the Windsor Hotel then owned by J.H. Kehler. This became the Kehler School. A month earlier a German school was started on the northeast corner of 14th and Curtis Streets. It was taken over by the district in February of 1868 and functioned as a public school until 1870.

In the beginning, both black and white students attended school in the rented school space, but in 1868, people in the district requested separate schools and rental space was found to house the black students in a building at 16th and Market Streets. The school moved February 2, 1869 to the African Baptist Church on Arapahoe between 21st and 22nd Streets. A later move was made to the African M. E. Church at 19th and Stout Streets and school continued there for the black students until the new Arapahoe School was completed in 1872.

Denver was growing rapidly, plus a steadily increasing number of students, which meant the district had to locate rental space for schools. The old Colorado Seminary at 14th and Arapahoe Streets was rented in the summer of 1870 and students from the Kehler School were moved to that site; the Kehler Building was no longer used.

It was not surprising that the number of students in the district surpassed the available room and the district had to look for additional rental space. Available space was found in the basement of the First Baptist Church on the northeast corner of 16th and Curtis Streets. Since the church had only finished the basement, it was known as the Baptist Dugout. The basement was leased on January 11, 1872 and with this space the district now had three rented buildings – Kehler School (at the Colorado Seminary), the school for the Blacks and the Baptist Dugout. This arrangement would last through the spring of 1873 and change in the fall with the opening of the new Arapahoe School.

arapahoeschoolArapahoe School had its start on land donated by noted Denverite Amos Steck. Several lots on the north side of Arapahoe between 17th and 18th Streets were donated by Mr. Steck in 1868. Between 1868 and 1871 the school district obtained additional lots in the block and ground breaking began on October 30, 1871. The cornerstone was laid on January 24, 1872 with completion of the school on April 2nd 1872. Arapahoe School included a library, elementary grades, and the first high school in the district which was established in 1873. It was a day of celebration in Denver as students of the first graduating class received their diplomas in 1877.

Arapahoe School, Denver’s first public school, was destined to be short lived. In nine short years the school was closed and the building sold in 1882. Denver’s rapidly growing business community had expanded to a point where the school was surrounded by stores and offices, putting the school in an inappropriate school area. The first public school building became part of a larger office building, the seven-story Club Building, which was torn down in 1955.

Even as Arapahoe School was being built the district was still in need of more space. A second school was built on Stout and 28th Streets with a completion date of March, 1874. It, too, had a short life. On March 11, 1881, the building was condemned and was destroyed by fire November 10, 1881.

As the city grew in population so did the school attendance and the district, faced with a continuing need for more school space, entered into a constant building program. Denver would experience a new school almost every year (some years two or three) during the next ten to fifteen years.

The high school, which had its beginnings at Arapahoe School, moved to a new building in 1881 along with the administration of the District. However only the west wing of the building was finished and it would not be until 1889 before the main section and the east wing would be built.

The position Superintendent was not created until 1871. Prior to that each principal reported directly to the school board. With the tremendous increase in both students and buildings it was clear that the administrative duties of a Superintendent was necessary. During the life of District No. 1, three men were Superintendent: H. Carver (1871-1873), F.C. Garbutt (1873-1874), and Aaron Gove (1874-1902).

The first Denver public school in District No. 2 was located on the north side of Larimer between 10th and 11th Streets. A two-story building, owned by Asa F. Middaugh, was leased on December 1, 1862 and Abner R. Brown filled the position of principal. However, District No. 2 was destined to follow in the troubled footsteps of District No. 1 – more students than available space. Needed funds were obtained in 1865 and the district purchased the Idding property located at Lawrence and 11th Streets, a two-story building built in 1861 as a general store. Later, in 1863, it was used as a warehouse by the U.S. Government for storage of munitions and was known as the Arsenal. It was proposed that the newly remodeled building become known as the Arsenal School.

arsenalschoolAn addition was built in 1871 and the school was renamed; it became the 11th Street School. Rebuilding was undertaken again in 1873 with the old arsenal section of the building being replaced by a new building. By 1884 the building had deteriorated so badly that the taxpayers requested the school board build a new building. The school board acknowledged the need and a new school, named Washington School, was built on 11th Street next to the old school.

Following in the footsteps of District No. 1, District No. 2 also initiated a building program to accommodate the growing number of school children.

The high school, established in 1881, was located at Central School and the first graduation took place on June 13, 1884. Following completion of the Franklin School, the high school moved into the new building and the next move was to the new all high school, grades nine through twelve, built in 1892.

franklinschoolArsenal School was the first location to house the school administration and from there it was moved to Central School. A later move was made to Franklin and the third move was to the new high school. The position Superintendent was not created until 1871. Prior to that each principal reported directly to the school board. During the life of District No. 2, three men were Superintendent: W.A. Donaldson (1871-1879), H.F. Wegener (1879-1891), and L.C. Greenlee (1891-1902).

On the other side of the South Platte River (northwest end), a new school district was formed from Districts 1 and 2. The North Denver District (District No. 17) was organized on March 28, 1872, which included land northwest of the river in the town of Highlands.

ashlandschoolThe school board immediately built a small wooden structure in 1872 on the corner of 15th and Central Streets. However, the ever present problem of population growth called for a larger school facility, and in 1874, the district constructed a brick building at 29th and Firth Court which was named Ashland School. The small wooden building was then discontinued as a school.

District No. 17 fared much better than the other two districts, but there was always the shortage of tax dollars required to build needed schools or expand and improve teaching methods. Nevertheless, the district did build schools for the growing student population. Ashland school soon outgrew its space and a larger brick building ws completed in 1882. Bryant School, with the use of temporary buildings, was established at that time. More buildings were added to Bryant School in 1883, but the continuous student growth necessitated the building of Boulevard school and a very small Grand View School that same year.

boulevardschoolAshland continued to be the largest school building in the district, but for the third time in thirteen years a relatively new school was torn down and rebuilt on the same site. Several temporary buildings were erected in 1888 to accommodate the students while the new Ashland was being constructed.

Even though there had been a concentrated building program, more space was required in 1899 and the district rented space in Highlands Town Hall, which was called Boulevard Annex School. The Superintendents for the district were H.F. Wegener (1876-1879), F.F. Smeigh (1879-1882), A.F. Allen (1882-1884), A.C. Courtney (1884-1885), Frank Mathews (1885-1886), Charles V. Parks (1886-1891), J.H. Van Sickle (1891-1900), and Charles E. Chadsey (1900-1902).

villaparkschoolOld records indicate that District No. 21 was established around September 8, 1873. The district built a small frame school in 1873. Later, a small school ws erected at West 13th and Grove Streets, and a two story brick school was built at 9th and Grove Streets in 1874 near the future site of the Villa Park School, which would be built in 1891.

Following the opening of Villa Park School, a one-room frame school was built in 1892 at 9th and Irving Streets. On the other side of the district, a small building was erected in 1884 at West Colfax and Tennyson and was known as Sloan’s Lake School. Three years later a new building, on the same site, became the Glen Park School.

District No. 98 was the Berkeley area of North Denver. The first school was a residence at 5101 Meade. A second school, again in a residence, was located at 4849 Newton Street and functioned from 1890-1893. Later, the district built Berkeley School, which was subsequently renamed Berkeley Annex School and was located at 51st and Lowell Streets.

With the great number of districts in a growing town such as Denver, problems arose for not only students but also taxpayers. The main portion of Denver was divided into two districts which made it hard for both districts to accomplish any major building or funding programs. Families with students were put in a position where they paid taxes in the district where they lived and then had to pay tuition in the school district the children attended. The iniquity of this problem was first addressed in the late 1880’s but it wasn’t until 1902 that a solution was reached.

evansschoolThe 20th Amendment to the Constitution of the State of Colorado, know as the Rush Amendment, created the City and County of Denver. Denver was separated from Arapahoe County, and at that time, the school districts were consolidated into one district. The amendment was created by an election in mid November 1902 and placed into effect by the Governor on December 1, 1902.

The school boards of all the larger districts were combined in a new board for Denver Public Schools District No. 1. On February 28, 1903, the Colorado State Supreme Court declared the Rush Amendment valid. Aaron Gove was appointed Superintendent and Lewis C. Greenlee and Charles E. Chadsey were made Assistant Superintendents. It wasn’t until May of 1903 that the first school board election was held for the new School District No. 1, City and County of Denver, Colorado.

In 1903, School District No. 1 acquired all the buildings and students in the following districts: 1, 2, 5, 7, 17, 18, 21, 24, 35, 44, 69, and 98. Some of these districts did not have school buildings so some schools were combined or new schools were built.

colejuniorA second, and big change in the district after consolidation, was the formation of the junior high school. In the late 1910’s, educators determined that a junior high school, consisting of grades 7, 8, and 9 would benefit the education process for staff and students. One of the early junior highs was Evans school which was converted from an elementary school. In the 1920’s many schools were built just for juniors high schools such as Skinner and Cole. By 1926, Denver had nine junior high schools.

schoolbusIn the early 1920’s, the school district initiated a large building program to update and meet the needs of the city. This was the result of several studies completed following the consolidation of the districts. The reports did not speak well for the schools of Denver. Many of the schools had classrooms in dark, dungeon like basement rooms with most of the facilities in the school buildings out dated and extremely unhealthy.

Large amounts of money were spent by the district during the ensuing years to upgrade the buildings, the facilities, and raise the level of the Denver school system to good.

A major problem confronted the Denver school system in the 1960’s, a problem facing many of the nation’s school systems…Baby Boomers. The tremendous upswing in births during the late 1940’s and early 1950’s resulted in school children far out numbering the available classroom space. And to compound the problem, the City and County of Denver was annexing more land at the same time, thereby increasing the district student population. Many of the older school buildings were showing “wear and tear” from long years of service, which resulted in many older school buildings being torn down in the 1970’s and 1980’s to be replaced by new structures. Older buildings that were not razed, but not feasible as a public school building, were sold to private schools or other organizations and only a few have been saved as historical structures.

School desegregation became an issue in the district about the same time as the Baby Boomers. In 1970, the U.S. District Court ordered busing for racial balancing within the schools which meant students spent considerable time riding school busses. Desegregation within the Denver Public Schools system was lifted in 1995.