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Cartwright, Carol Lohry; Shaffer, Scott; Waller, Randal / City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville's history
(1998)

8. Education,   pp. 147-164


Page 150

Garfield School at 315 S. Jackson St., Grant School at 1420 W. Court St., Jackson School at 423
Delavan Drive, Jefferson School at 400 S. Second St., Lincoln School at 10 S. High St.,
Washington School at 431 N. Washington St., and Webster School at 203 Lincoln St. Aside
from a new high school building, little building activity related to the public schools took
place in the city between 1900 and 1928. That does not mean, however, that there were no
concerns about elementary schools. (City Directories)
During the early twentieth century, State Superintendent of Schools personnel began promoting
new educational ideas to Wisconsin's school districts. In 1918, the State Superintendent's office
published a study of Janesville's public schools. Among the findings: older grade school
buildings were poorly lighted and ventilated and had inadequate utilities and poor floor
plans; the elementary school buildings were no longer evenly distributed throughout the city;
many school buildings were too small to be efficient. The study suggested that school curriculum
and teaching methods be altered to take into account student ability and interests and that the
school district introduce a junior high school program. (Cary 1918:6-17)
The Janesville School Board responded to this report by erecting a new junior-senior high school
in 1922. But changes to the city's elementary education facilities did not take place for another
10 years. In 1928, the school board turned its attention to the elementary schools and acquired
five sites for new school buildings. In the next few years, the board erected four large, modern
elementary schools. The noted Madison architectural firm of Law, Law and Potter designed the
first two schools. Known as the Wilson and Roosevelt schools, located at 465 Rockport Rd. and
316 S. Ringold St., respectively, they were completed in 1930. The district closed the Douglas
and Webster schools in 1930, and Jackson School in 1932. (Cadman 1959:33-34, City Directories)
In 1938, two more modern schools were erected: Washington School at 811 N. Pine St. and
Adams School at 1138 E. Memorial Drive. Built partially with federal government financing,
they opened in 1939. Jefferson School was closed shortly thereafter. The four new schools that
opened were state-of-the-art facilities reflecting the suggestions in the 1918 school study: They
were large, efficient, well-equipped, and attractive buildings located in key residential areas.
A tribute to their quality and location, all four schools are still operating today, with much of
their historic appearance still intact, despite some additions and alterations. Though
constructed during the Great Depression, the schools have such fine amenities as built-in oak
cabinets, marble drinking fountains, and beautiful doors and woodwork. (Cadman 1959:34;
Nelesen 1994:1C)
These four schools, along with two older schools, Grant and Garfield, served the city until the
1950s, when the rapid changes of the post-World War II era resulted in further changes to
Janesville's public elementary schools. New state requirements, a rapidly increasing birth
rate, and school consolidation increased the size of the school district. The need for more
classrooms resulted in additions to Washington, Adams, and Roosevelt schools in 1952. In 1956,
two new grade schools were built in rapidly growing neighborhoods. A new Jefferson School
was built at 1831 Mt. Zion Ave. to serve the east side suburbs, and a new Lincoln School was
built at 1835 S. Oakhill Ave. to serve the northwest suburbs. (Cadman 1959:35-39, City
Directories)
One of the most significant statewide events in public elementary education during the post-
World War II era was the school consolidation movement that closed small, one- or two-room
rural schools and brought rural children into city school systems. In response to state
consolidation efforts, some rural areas built larger rural schools in an effort to retain local
control. But this was only a temporary solution, and eventually these schools were closed. In
1962, eight rural schools from the towns of Rock, Harmony, La Prairie, and Janesville were
added to the Janesville School District: Blackhawk School, Frances Willard School, Happy
Education
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