School History

History Of West Frankfort Schools

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(From Frankfort Area Historical Society, 1978)  

One of the goals of parents, in any age, is the education of their children.  With the development of West Frankfort after the railroad came, one of the first public buildings to be erected was the school building.

In 1896 or 1897 the first school building, called East Side School, District 72, was built in "West Town" at the corner of North Jefferson and East Main Streets.  At First, the East Side School was a two story, two-room frame building, to which an addition created an L-shaped building, adding two more rooms.  Mr. E.E. McCollum was an early teacher and principal.

In 1905, the West Side School was opened on the northwest corner of North Logan and West Poplar Streets.  In 1914, this school was replaced by a large brick school at 700 West Main Street called West Side School until later changed to Edwards School after Governor Ninian Edwards.  In 1911, Joiner School was built at 903 West St. Louis Street on land donated by Charles Joiner.  Joiner School was in a separate school district from the city schools.

In 1911, Mr. H. Atwood was hired to organize a high school at the East Side School.  He first organized a two-year high school and later the third and fourth years were added. Needing more space, the high school was moved across Main Street to the second floor of the Burgess Building at 228 East Main Street.  The Classes were divided with cloth partitions.

In 1912, the new modern brick building for Central School was opened just north of the East Side School, and the high school and all grades were moved to Central School.  The old school was moved away, leaving the playground for Central School.  In 1913, the first graduating class consisted of one  graduate, Miss Ruby Durst (Burke).  The 1914 graduating class consisted of Irene McNamar (Boughers), Bernard Hampton, Verda Griffin (Wentworth), and Nell Karnes (McCollum).  This class put out the first year book.

In 1919, Mr. C.A. Waller was hired as City School Superintendent, a position he continued to hold for twenty-nine years.  In 1920, the high school was moved to the First Baptist Church Annex for a year while a new high school building was under construction.  In 1921, the modern, beautiful Frankfort Community High School building was dedicated.  It is located in the 600 block of East Main Street on land purchased from Maud Dimmick Woods for $6,800.00.  This land had previously been used for the football team which Mr. Waller organized.

In 1919, the elementary school systems of Frankfort Heights No 68. and West Frankfort No. 108 was consolidated and became District No. 168.  In 1919 also, Franklin School, a new elementary school opened in the 700 block of East St. Louis Street.  In 1926, Lincoln Elementary School was built at 1300 East Elm Street, on property purchased from St. John's Catholic Church.

St. John's Parochial School was organized in 1921 and first taught by the Franciscan Sisters in the convent at 702 East Poplar Street.  In 1926, it was moved to new stucco school building just east of the Catholic Church on East Main Street.  Now, in the spring of 1978, St. John's School has moved into a modern brick building at 704 East Poplar Street.

In the middle 1950's, the Illinois Department of Education encouraged consolidation of small rural schools with larger city school systems for more efficiency.  In 1956, Garrett's Prairie, Walltown, Weaver, and Moore Schools were annexed to District No. 168.  Pershing and Townmount Schools joined in 1957.  In 1959, Joiner School was annexed and the school building was torn down in 1976.  On December 8, 1958, Orient School System No. 102 was annexed and the Frankfort Community Unit District was formed.

In 1974-1975, two modern elementary school buildings, Frankfort School at 1000 East Seventh Street and Denning School at 701 North Columbia Street were built, replacing Lincoln, Edwards, Franklin, Joiner, and Logan Schools.  All these buildings, except Logan School, were demolished.

In 1978 a new Junior High School building was built at 1500 East Ninth Street on the north side of the city, replacing the 66-year old Central School.  The West Frankfort School system had come a long way since the one-room school at Old Frankfort was used nearly one hundred fifty years ago.  

Logan School has been preserved, and now houses The Frankfort Area Historical Museum, a fitting memorial for the historical village of Old Frankfort which existed at that location from 1821 until early 1900.     


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Frankfort Community High School

In 1919, West Frankfort High School and Frankfort Heights High School were consolidated to form Frankfort Community High School. The West Frankfort High School had been located in the Central Building. The Assembly Room there also served as a classroom, study hall, and library. The curriculum was limited in that no commercial subjects, manual training, or domestic arts could be offered. The first graduating class in 1913 had only one member. The Class of 1914 had four students and produced the first yearbook.

The school was placed on the accredited list with the University of Illinois. At that time, the Frankfort Heights High School offered three years of work in the Logan building, and seniors had to transfer to the "West Town" School.

The first year, the new high school remained in the Central Building. Fourteen students were graduated in the class of 1920. The faculty consisted of nine teachers and 147 students. At the beginning of that term, no football team could be organized because of a lack of material.

In September, 1920, the high school was moved from the Central School to the annex of the First Baptist Church for one year, while the present building was being constructed. The student body had grown to 236, of whom 16 were seniors, and football was organized for the first time.

In the fall of 1921, 300 students moved into the current Frankfort Community High School. It was designed by the nationally-known school architect, Mr. William B. Ittner of St. Louis, Missouri.

The football stadium was constructed by the WPA at Johnson Field in 1937. It had an initial seating capacity of 1,200.

With a student body growing to more than 1,000 students, a three-floor addition was added to the original high school in 1938. It consisted of classrooms, shop rooms, a cafeteria, a study hall/library, and a music room.

Early in 1949, the construction of a modern gymnasium with a seating capacity of 4,000 was begun. It was dedicated on February 21, 1950. The new gymnasium enabled FCHS to offer its students an expanded program in physical education. It was named Max Morris Gymnasium in 1985. In 1981, a new Vocational Building was constructed on the corner of North Lincoln and East St. Louis Streets. This facility has enabled FCHS to offer an expanded vocational curriculum.

The Verna Lee Burton Library was dedicated in the fall of 1994. With funds donated by FCHS graduate Robert Burton, FCHS was able to transform the former study hall area into an attractive, up-to-date library facility. The new library provides almost twice as much space as the former library. In addition, the new library can provide the computer technologies to bring FCHS students into the "information age."

The main building was air-conditioned and rewired during a 1999-2000 renovation project. In 2004-2005, Max Morris Gymnasium was renovated with new heat, plumbing, and wiring.