July 21, 2017
This is “Our Past Is Present” from the Geary County Historical Society.
This is a little early to be thinking about the new school year, however, it is closer than some may want to realize. Today’s story is about the beginning of the public school system in Junction City, which was established as District No. 1 in July of 1862. The first settlers in the area were from communities where a school was an integral part of everyday life. As soon as they were able to take care of the necessities of life, they made provision for the education of their children. As early as 1858, select schools were in operation in Davis County, which is now Geary County. These schools were actually private schools wherein the parents paid the teacher directly and the teacher usually maintained the school in his or her home. No records exist today of these tuition schools and only scant mention is made of them in newspaper articles of the time. Some of these select schools existed throughout the 1860’s becoming specialized in areas like spelling schools, singing schools and “finishing” schools for young ladies. During the winter of 1858-1859, three select schools were maintained in the immediate area; one at Bacheller (which was the first name given to Milford, Kansas), one at Junction City and one four miles northwest of town. To finance Davis County School District No 1, the first Board of Trustees assessed a tax of one-half of one percent for renting or building a school house, one fourth of one percent for teachers’ wages and one fourth of a percent for supplies and equipment. The school opened on November 17, 1862 with classes held in a rented room upstairs over the Ganz Building that stood on the north side of Sixth Street. Seventy-two students enrolled for this first class. The first building built specifically for education purposes was known as the “school on the hill”, but its location at the intersection of what is now Jackson Street and Walnut Street proved to be too far out from the city. Rural schools also sprang up quickly around Junction City and by 1872; just ten years after the city district was established there were 20 rural schools in the county.
USD 475 School District now has schools in Junction City, Grandview Plaza, Milford and on Fort Riley. All of the buildings are being made ready for the 2017-18 school year, which will begin August 9th for teachers and August 16 for students.