The First Two Decades Of School District 92 ½ - 1929 to 1949
For the dual purpose of providing a history of this school district and also background material for new school board members this synopsis was compiled Mr. Field from the minutes and other records of School District Number 92 ½.
In the 1920s when Westchester was conceived from 2200 acres of farmland there were no public schools within the Village. From the time the first residence was built about 1927 until September 1929, pupils had to attend country type schools in Bellwood, La Grange Park, etc. Typical of those one room schools was the now abandoned Peterson School just east of the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad on the south side of 22nd Street and a no longer existent school very close to the site of the present Lincoln School in Bellwood.
The early residents were very concerned about establishing a school district in the Village. By petition on October 18, 1928 the residents asked the School Trustees of Proviso Township to form a school district in the Westchester. By a resolution on December 4, 1928, the Trustees created School District 92 ½ by taking sections of District 88, Bellwood, District 92 Broadview and District 93 Hillside and announced the election of the first three member Board of Directors would be held at the Westchester Village Hall on January 5, 1929. However, the boundaries of this new school district did not and still do not coincide with the corporate boundaries of the Village. The exceptions being that pupils south of 26th Street would go to the La Grange Park School District and those south of Kent Street and east of Suffolk Avenue would go to the North Riverside School.
Forty-two unanimous votes wore cast on January 5, 1929, for the candidates for the first Board:
At that time Mr. Britten was also President of the Westchester. For quite some time School Board meetings were held in the Village Hall. Mr. Roberts later became President of the Village.
At the first School Board mooting, held on January 14, 1929, the first order of business was approving the cost of transporting pupils to nearby schools. The second order of business was approving a motion for an election to purchase the present two school sites (Britten and Nixon areas). This was approved unanimously by 42 voters on February 9, 1929.
The first revenue was reported in the minutes of May 13, 1929. It was a tax anticipation warrant from District 93, Hillside for $4,834.85 in full payment of all financial obligation to District 92 ½.
The first regular school board election was held on April 13, 1929 and Mr. Britten, whose original term was from January 5 to April 13, 1929, was re-elected without opposition.
The minutes of June 10, 1929 show that tuition was paid to Districts 88 and 92 and the Maywood Cab Company which handled the transportation. At this same meeting estimated costs were submitted for the erection of two two-room school buildings, on the acquired sites, for a total of $30,000. An election was held June 29, 1929, to approve the issue of building bonds to the maximum legal limit of $21,000 with interest at 5 ½ percent due July 1, 1949. Again 42 voters unanimously approved the bond issue and the erection of buildings on those two sites.
At the meeting of June 17, 1929 the first budget and tax levy was approved.
On July 15, 1929 a contract was awarded Architect Warren S. Holmes to prepare drawings and specifications for the two buildings not to be exceed a total of $40,000 for a fee of $950.00.
On August 12, 1929 the first two teachers were hired to start the first classes in the new district at buildings rented from the developers:
These building were completed residences. Children of all grades levels were to be at each site so transportation could be discontinued. The salaries were $150.00 per month and the teachers were Miss Nancy LaMarr and Miss Mary Reese. For the first year there were only about fifteen pupils at each of' these temporary schools. Classes were held in those two residences until the Grant N. Britten School was opened in September, 1930 and the George F. Nixon School was opened on January 26, 1931.
Photo by Charles Field
Britten School, 1927-1928. Photograph by Charles Field.
Thus public schools were started in Westchester!
By March, 1931 there were 390 residents in the Village and about 50 pupils in the two two-room schools. Because of the depression, few homes were built until about 1940 when the population had grown to 650 with 80 pupils in the four rooms. During these nine years from 1931 to 1940 tax collections averaged about 33 percent of the levies and the School Directors had to resort to selling tax anticipation warrants.
Active building started in Westchester in the 1940s. In addition to financial difficulties there was the problem of sufficient classrooms for the rapidly increasing enrollment. By 1942 the enrollment had increased to 142 pupils compared to 80 in 1940. Many attempts were made to get Federal assistance to meet expenses and for expansion. Finally for several years the government under the Lanham Act made grants to offset the district's yearly deficits and in 1945 authorized a grant of $49,550 toward a four-room addition but this was canceled immediately after the Japanese surrendered and before a building contract had been awarded.
From September, 1942 until June of 1949 arrangements were made to use the basement of the Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, prior to the completion of the two-room addition to the Britten School pupils were sent to the Wilson School near 25th and Harrison Streets on a tuition basis. Staggered classes were inaugurated whereby each year two grades shared one room on a half day basis. This was continued until Romilly Hall was completed in November, 1946. In September, 1947 a four-room addition to the Nixon school was completed and in 1948 the school bus garage was erected.
The increased activity in residential construction during 1947 and 1948 necessitated further expansion to the Nixon School and in the summer of 1948 a contract was awarded for the addition that would be required in September, 1949. This project included six classrooms, an auditorium/gymnasium, office, kitchen, four lavatories, two locker rooms, a shower room, a drying room, a boiler room, a Public Service Vault, a storage room and a large unexcavated, unpaved area under the auditorium that later could be divided into two class shops and a social room. The planning of this addition provided for the possibility of another classroom addition running North and South at the East end of the auditorium.
The Westchester Public School system has consistently put out a good product. Checking the Proviso High School records and current news items on high school activities show very clearly that pupils from Westchester are prominent in all types of activities such as class and club officers, publications, band, orchestra, chorus and athletic teams, as well as ranking on the scholastic honor rolls. This achievement record is rather surprising as up to 1949 we had comparatively snail Graduating classes as follows:
A total of 241 in the first twenty years.
Much of the credit for this high school record of our graduates is due Superintendent Beamish and the fine staff he has had each years since he came to Westchester in April, 1941. During the first twenty years there have been many problems and the present development of School District 92 ½ is the result of the efforts of the past and present members of the School Board, listed below with their years of service (through 1949):
(Note - "*" denotes members of first six-member [plus President] Board of Education formed April, 1948)
The 1949 Board was composed of the following:
Other district school officials included:
The four-year expansion of the late 1940s to the school plant was completed. This expansion included:
Nixon School, 1957. Photograph by Charles Field.
These projects added thirteen classrooms, an auditorium-gymnasium, an office, a kitchen and several other auxiliary rooms to the six classrooms existing in 1945. The Staff in 1945 comprised a superintendent of schools, nine teachers and two custodians. In September, 1949 there was a superintendent of schools, twenty-one teachers, four custodians, a bandmaster, an office assistant and a nurse.
In order that a more complete understanding may be obtained of the development of the Westchester School System, Charles Field compiled these and other materials (see the links below) taken from the Board records and meeting minutes.
Charles N. Field
Member of School Board
District 92 ½
1945 to 1949
Last Modified: 11/24/2002