From the earliest days when rural schools began to consolidate in the middle and late 1800s, to the latest district addition of a new high school building in 2003, the Eudora School District has had one constant trend: growth.
While the Methodist Mission School in 1851 and other private subscription schooling was available, the first city building for a school was the frame building used as city hall, with a jail in the lower level, on the corner of Sixth and Main, later at Seventh and Main.
Less than ten years after moving into the city's building, a new school was needed to keep up with growing enrollment. To meet these needs, a stone schoolhouse was built at 7th and Church St. in 1866. A brick addition was added in 1881, and a new two-story, six-room brick building was built in 1903. The EHS graduating class of 1918 was the last class to graduate from this building.
The major growth of students in Eudora can be accounted for by the number of rural schools in the area. From 1852-1890, there were 23 rural schools in an area less than eight miles from Eudora. As these closed their doors, the students came to school in Eudora. In 1918, a school was built at 10th and Main to accommodate the growth trend, and it is said that children found pieces at the construction site during this project!
With the building of Sunflower Ordnance Works in 1942, a federal munitions plant four miles east of Eudora, the population of Eudora nearly tripled, which created problems for the facilities in place at the schools. The school lunch room was closed to use as a classroom, and seats were in the aisles. Around 1944, the 60 first graders went to school in the Eudora Methodist Church for half a day, while the large second grade class used that building for the other half of the day. In 1949, first graders attended school in the Victory Theatre building, at seventh and Main.
With the explosive enrollment, and all of the resulting wear and tear on the building, a new school was built. And a 1951 addition to the existing high school structure at 10th and Main allowed for a consolidated grade school that shared the gymnasium and cafeteria. Five years later, a four-room addition was added to the grade school addition, followed by several portable trailer classrooms to further address growing enrollment. In 1959, an annex was added to the high school, and in 1965, Nottingham Primary was built.
When Nottingham was built at 15th and Elm, the location was on the complete outskirts of town. It was built at a cost of $175,000 and was designed with the open classroom concept for kindergarten through third grade. It was named for Miss Roberta Nottingham, a Eudora teacher from 1942-1967.
Perhaps the most significant administrative change came in the district in 1966 when the schools became unified with a Eudora superintendent of schools, rather than a county superintendent.
Continuing growth meant two more additions to Nottingham, in 1974 and 1996, as well as a new elementary school, Eudora West Elementary, which opened in 1994.
As Eudora has continued to grow, the Eudora School District has tried to expand in such a way that balances student needs and fiscal responsibility, while keeping academic excellence as the top priority. A new high school opened south of K-10 Highway in 1995, and just a few years later, this building became the middle school when the current Eudora High School opened in 2003.
A landmark $45 million bond was passed by Eudora voters in November 2007, providing for a new elementary school for all Eudora students, as well as permanent classroom additions at Eudora Middle School and Eudora High School. A dedication ceremony celebrated the opening of Eudora Elementary School in fall 2009.
Two other highlights of the bond projects was the Eudora-De Soto Technical Education Center, performing arts center and Eudora District Stadium, all of which opened on the EHS campus in the fall of 2010. Special events marked the openings of the stadium that fall and the auditorium and technical center during the winter.
When Eudora Elementary opened in the fall of 2009, Nottingham closed as a school, and West Elementary became the West Early Childhood Family Center, housing the district's preschool and all-day kindergarten programs. Budget constraints in 2010 forced the temporary closure of West as a school, as early childhood programs moved into extra classrooms at EES. West is currently being used as an administrative resource center for the school district and the Southeast Kansas Educational Service Center.
The above historical account was excerpted in large part from Eudora Community Heritage of our USA Bicentennial, a 1977 publication coordinated by the Eudora Bicentennial Committee.
Photos and descriptions are courtesy of the Eudora Area Historical Society.
Students at the Hopewell School circa 1900. The Hopewell School was located on the western edge of Johnson County and served students in the Eudora Township.
This is one of the oldest photographs from Eudora, if not the oldest photograph from Eudora. Pictured are students at the Eudora School circa 1860-1864. Eudora's first school building was located at 7th and Main Streets. The school building later served as City Hall. The building was moved in 1955 and is now a private residence at 731 Maple Street.
Elementary Students at the "Old Stone" School in Eudora, in 1888. Unlike many nearby communities in Kansas at the time (including Lawrence, Olathe and Topeka), schools in Eudora were never segregated by ethnicity.
Pictured are Eudora students in front of the Eudora "Stone" School building at 6th and Church Streets circa 1870. The "Stone" School building was home to all Eudora students and grades from 1866 to 1903. When completed in 1866, it was by far the largest building in the community, thus showing Eudora's commitment to education.