A junior high school in Kansas City, Kansas was to be an experiment.
Kansas City, Kansas has a unique position in the educational system of Kansas, beginning with the school built and opened on July 1, 1844 by the Wyandot Tribal Council, located on what is now 4 th Street between State and Nebraska. Central Middle School is no exception to “uniqueness.”
In the year 1914, when Lenin was planning a revolution and Henry Ford was paying employees $5, Superintendent M. E. Pearson was planning a radical move. He had a dream and that dream was called a junior high school. There were only a few throughout the eastern US, but there were none west of the Missouri, so a junior high school in Kansas City, Kansas was experimental. Mr. Pearson felt that Kansas City was an industrial city and many of its young people went into industry, not into a profession. When Pearson studied the setup of the new intermediate schools, known as junior high schools, he felt he had found the solution to the problem of holding children in school until at least the ninth grade.
The history of Central Middle School goes back as far as 1907, when Whittier School was built at Boeke and Ivandale. The new school opened January 27, 1908. The former Irving center for manual training was transferred at once to the new Whittier area. This building was to be the first of several units that now make up Central.
Whittier ‘s enrollment grew and the school was crowded within a year or two after its opening. Miss Ella Mahaffie became principal and was succeeded by Miss Ethel Litchfield in 1913. By 1915, the new junior high school was under way. In March of 1915, Whittier teachers and children moved from their classrooms into portable buildings at 10th and Ivandale, so the new editions and remodeling could begin. When the building was finished, Whittier occupied one wing. The school became Whittier Junior High School, and the portables were used for elementary children until a new building could be erected for them. (In 1922, the Whittier grade school moved into a new building at 10 th and Gilmore). There were six courses offered in the junior high school: English, English-German, English-Latin, industrial arts, household economics and business. The first graduating class in 1917 had 143 members.
In 1923, Northwest and Northeast Junior High Schools were established. No longer one of a kind, Whittier (many times simply called “the Junior High School”) was renamed, on 23 April 1923, to Central Junior High School. In 1927, the north and south sections of the main building were added, the gymnasium lengthened and balconies added to accommodate the increasing services and enrollment. Wyandotte High School at 9th and Minnesota was destroyed by fire on March 3, 1934, and until the fall of 1937, Central helped by bringing in the students from the high school.
1951 Flood – July – The Wyandotte County Commissioners were granted use of the parking area east of Central Junior High School for storing wheelbarrows, boots, shovels, and other tools to be used in the flooded area.
Contracts for a new auditorium, seating 774 persons, a sound-proof music room and library to the west of the original building were signed in the fall of 1956 and the additions were ready the following year. In 1957, an addition on west of building was built, also an auditorium, music rooms, and library.
The second addition was in 1960-61 with a gymnasium, music rooms and cafeteria. The site was 5.1 acres. Music rooms, a new cafeteria and a new gymnasium were completed in 1961. Other improvements in 1961 included a new woodworking shop, office and health suites, general and metal shop and homeliving departments. The former gymnasium was converted to an industrial arts center when the new one, with folding doors to divide it into two rooms, for boys and girls, was built.
“In early 1977, the district received a decision from the United States District Court which did not require major and mandatory relocation of students, but did require the desegregation of Northeast Junior and Sumner High Schools. That decision had been appealed to the Tenth Circuit of the Federal Courts by the Department of Justice in the hope of securing a ruling to require a “racial balance” in all schools. Such a decision would have required the mandatory relocation of thousands of students by a system of cross-districting busing. At this point, only voluntary racial balance transfers were required at the elementary school level. Northeast Junior High was to be closed and its students and teachers reassigned to other schools. Sumner was to be converted to an academic magnet school in 1978. A committee of parents had spent the previous four months working through meetings to assure the smooth integration of pupils from Northeast Junior into Central, Rosedale, Argentine, Arrowhead and Eisenhower.” Schools in KCKs in Years of Change, 1964-86, by O. L. Plucker, Superintendent Emeritus, June, 1987 (pg. 50-52)
In 1982, USD 500 changed all junior highs to middle schools, serving grades 6-8.
New Whittier Elementary School was built in 1991 on the former ball field at Central Middle School (295 S. 10th St).
In 2001, voters approved a proposed $120 million bond issue at the Municipal Election Tuesday (April 3, 2001) to air-condition schools, improve technology, and make other upgrades to schools and public libraries. Central Middle was part of Phase II, which was completed in the summer of 2002.