“An Educational Center”

Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Newton Comes to the Front as an Educational Center

In 1888, Newton schools experienced a building boom. The 2nd Ward School (Lincoln) had been in use since 1884 and likely received some upgrades when the 1st Ward School (Cooper) and 3rd Ward School(McKinley) were constructed in 1888.

Newton Daily Republican, 26 August 1888.

2nd Ward School, (later Lincoln)

3nd Ward School, (later McKinley)

First Ward School (later Cooper)

The Newton Daily Republican noted that “the time is to be hoped for when every young person in Newton and Harvey county will aspire to be a graduate of the High School.”

The editors praised those involved in the decision to build two new schools for the 1st & 3rd Wards and the contractors that completed the projects.

“Newton has two school buildings as fine as the state affords.  They will long bear witness to the good qualities of the people who provided the wherewithal, and to the faithfulness of the Board of Education who made so judicious use of public funds.”

The editor had every confidence that the schools would all be ready for students “the first morning of October just as the town clock is on the stroke of nine.”

Newton High School, 7th & Oak 1889-1913, also known as the “First Ward School”, renamed Cooper School, 1913-1938.

Photo is taken from the Courthouse tower looking east/southeast – Cooper School is on the left indicated with a blue arrow. Ca. 1920s.

J. W. Cooper was principal until 1888 then promoted to Superintendent of schools and Cooper Grade School was named in his honor.

Discussions regarding the Cooper School building took place as early as 1912 in connection with the construction of a new high school.

Evening Kansan Republican, 5 January 1912, p. 1.

South Side of Cooper Elementary, ca. 1939.

West side of Cooper Grade School, 1938. Demolition has begun.

Despite challenges the Cooper School remained in use until 1938,  when a new building was constructed. A new McKinley School building on east 1st and Pine was also constructed at the same time.

Pamphlet of the new Cooper Grade School, ca. 1939, Lorentz Schmidt, Wichita, Architect.

Building the new Cooper School, 1938.

Cooper Grade School Placing the Cornerstone ceremony on 24 April 1938.

Cooper Grade School, construction, 1938, at the intersection of 8th & Oak. Old building is visible at the right edge of photo.

Postcard of Cooper Grade School, ca. 1940s


Cooper Grade School, E. 8th & Oak, Newton, Ks, 1947.

The Cooper Early Education Center in 2012.

Cooper Early Education Center, E. 7th & Oak, Newton, Ks, 2012.


  • Newton Daily Republican: 28 January 1888, 8 February 1888, 26 August 1888,  26 July 1889, 31 July 1889.
  • Evening Kansan Republican: 10 June 1899, 30 July 1900, 27 April 1901, 18 July 1907, 5 January 1912, 12 January 1912, 10 July 1914.