The school year has officially started for Junction City High School. The hallways of the high school have been rumbling and buzzing with the excitement of a new school year. The rumbling of a new school year have always been a part of the high school, but not always at the same building. The history of the high school is a very interesting one, especially when you correlate it with the growth and change in the population of Junction City. This change has always affected how the high school has evolved and changed. The high school has traveled around town and has been housed in many different building around town, one of which doesn’t stand anymore. The purpose of this column is to review the history and transformation of the Junction City high school and how it has arrived in its current location.
The original Junction City High School began in 1873 when the old McKinley building, which no longer stands, was used as the town’s first high school. The McKinley building was used as the Senior High School from 1873 to 1904, and was located in the 300th block of West Ninth Street. When the high school first opened, the staff was compiled of five teachers and one principle, who also served as the superintendent. The student body was not much bigger. A total of seven kids graduated from Junction City High’s inaugural class in 1876. The class would have been much smaller if two of its students, J.B. and J.S. Callen, had decided to graduate early. Because the two brothers had finished the three year program in 2 ½ years they had the opportunity to graduate after the first semester. They decided to stay for the second semester so they could walk with the rest of their classmates. The two brothers were able to take advantage of the three year program the high school offered. After 1894, the district decided to change it to the more traditional, four year program.
When the student body began to outgrow the McKinley building, the high school made the switch to a new building. In 1904, the high school moved to its next location, the stone building on Sixth and Adams. The high school was at this location for about 25 years. Anyone who visits the old building will notice old reminders of the old high school, such as the words “High School” over the main doorway of the building and the year 1903 is chiseled into the cornerstone. As with the McKinley building on Ninth Street, the ever growing student population out grew the building.
In 1929, there was an addition to the Junior high school which then combined both the junior and senior high schools into one building. Kids from 7th to 12th grade went to this newly renovated building, while the old building on Adams Street became the “Departmental Building”, and housed only the sixth grade class.
Just like the previous incarnations of the high school, the renovated building could not hold the growing number of students that were coming into the Junior and Senior high school. Due to this population boom in the 1950s, many of the classrooms were overcrowded and many teachers had to share a classroom. The school day began at 8:30 am and many would teach their last class at 4:10 pm. When the high school was at this building, the maximum capacity was 900. The largest enrollment they had while at this old school was 1,300!
For these reasons, a new school was built in 1958, to better accommodate the growing student population of Junction City was built. This new school housed the more traditional grades of 9th through 12th and is where the current high school still stands. At the current high school, there are still some imagery and items that give homage to the previous high schools. The original bell than hung at the McKinley building is still on display at the current high school.
The Geary County Historical Society is located in the second high school building at 530 N. Adams. If you want to visit the old high school building make sure to come check out the museum. We are open Tuesday- Sunday from 1 pm through 4pm!
This picture is of the McKinley building which housed the very first high school between 1873 and 1903.