FOR THE RECORD: Oakdale Elementary School in Omaha was part of District 31, known as Oak Park School District, when it was built in 1871. District 31 merged with District 65 (Loveland) and District 46 (Underwood/Peony Park) in 1947 to form School District 66, now known as the Westside Community Schools. The Oakdale history was incorrect in Saturday's Community Connection.
Talk about old school. This story is all about old schools — specifically Omaha-area schools that have been educating children for at least 100 years.
All of these century-old schools have had renovations, additions and remodeling. Some have had name changes, too.
Take a walk through history to learn about one school celebrating its centennial this year, the area's oldest school and three others that all opened in 1872.
St. Bernard School in Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha, 1912
Happy centennial year to St. Bernard School, 3604 N. 65th St. It welcomed 75 children when it first opened in mid-October 1912.
The first building — a brick four-room school that cost $6,837 — had classes for kindergartners through eighth-graders.
The current building went up in 1917. One addition was dedicated in 1950 and another in 1955. Enrollment peaked during the 1963-64 school year at 1,144 students with a faculty of 12 teaching nuns, 19 lay teachers, one reading consultant and a full-time principal.
The last addition, in 1971, came as enrollment was declining. The construction put the parish into so much debt that its members considered closing the school.
St. Bernard now serves 192 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
Besides Omaha, students come from Missouri Valley and Henderson, both in Iowa, plus the Nebraska towns of Fort Calhoun, Bennington and Ralston to attend St. Bernard.
To mark its centennial, the school has a special activity each month of the school year.
August brought a balloon launch on the first day of school. September's event was a Walk Through 100 Years. October brought a dinner and auction. A family dance took place Friday.
Next up is the Dec. 20 Christmas program, which will feature a special Christmas song rewritten to celebrate 100 years and the debut of a new school song.
Oakdale Elementary in Westside, 1872
Oakdale, 9801 West Center Road, began life in 1872. That's when area farmers built a structure where their children could be educated. Originally part of school District 31, Oakdale became part of the Westside Community Schools, or District 66, in 1947.
A history of the school's early days includes these tidbits:
Recess lasted 15 minutes. Popular games were pump-pump-pull-away, Anni-I-Over and baseball, but children used a board for the bat.
Water was carried from a farm well and everyone at school drank from the same dipper.
The worst punishment for misbehavior was staying after school. Naughty students also got “lickings” with a stick.
If an ornery boy was to get a licking, he found a big branch from a red willow tree and split the ends of the branch with his pocket knife. Each time the teacher hit the boy, a piece of the branch broke off.
Another ornery boy had to stand in a corner facing it. When he peeked, the children laughed. The teacher then placed the boy under a barrel. The boy used his pocket knife to whittle a peeking hole.
Omaha Central in Omaha public schools, 1872
Central, 124 N. 20th St., sits on the hill where Nebraska's territorial capitol once stood.
The original capitol building was deemed unsafe and torn down. It was replaced with a red brick building with a clock tower in 1872. Three years later, President Ulysses S. Grant spoke at the school's first graduation ceremony. That building housed grades K-12 until 1891.
Central's current building went up one side at a time: The east wing went up in 1900, south in 1905, west in 1910 and north in 1912. Parts of the 1872 building were used until 1910, connected to the new parts by a bridge.
The school was renamed from Omaha High School to Central in 1912 to eliminate confusion with the then-new Omaha High School of Commerce.
Springville Elementary in OPS, 1872
Springville, 7400 N. 60th St., began as a one-room building for School District 29, then a rural area.
School history includes memories from two teachers at the school in 1919:
They traveled to school by horse-drawn buggy, switching to horse-drawn sleigh when snow was on the ground. The horses wore bells. “On starry, wintry nights, everyone along the way listened for the bells,” the teachers said.
School year highlights then included the Christmas program and a box social that drew “parents and patrons from far and near.”
Mission Middle School in the Bellevue Public Schools, 1869
Mission, the granddaddy of the metro area's old schools, is the current name for the Bellevue Public School building on the northwest corner of Mission Avenue and Washington Street in Bellevue.
The school was called Bellevue School District No. 1 until 1911, when it was renamed Main School.
In the early 1950s, the school became Bellevue Junior-Senior High and housed grades seven through 12. When Bellevue Senior High opened in 1962, the old building became Bellevue Junior High.
The name Mission honors the 1846 school the Presbyterian Board of Missions built in Bellevue. That first school taught Omaha, Pawnee and Otoe Native American children until the Omaha Tribe sold its land to the federal government in 1854.
The Omaha Tribe gave one square mile of land in present-day Bellevue to the Board of Missions. Mission Middle School sits on that historical Mission Reserve.
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