Article:  The School Building and Growth

(Excerpt from the book, Celebrating 150 Years:  Center Point, Iowa 1854-2004)

The future of any community lies in its school system, and Center Point was no exception.  Youngsters in the community began learning their “3 R’s” in 1856 in a log school built just northwest of town.  Mr. Wilcox taught the first classes in the winter of 1856.

Following the growth and “birth” of Center Point, the school was moved into town in 1858.  This wood building, originally costing $1,250, was an excellent start.  As the community grew, it was obvious that the facilities were much too small.  In 1875, an addition, equal in size to the one already in use, was built at the cost of $2,150.  This provided four good-sized school rooms which were considered “plush” at the time.  The school had four teachers:  Mrs. Leonard, Miss Clarinda Wilson, Mrs. Louise Sweeney, and Mrs. O.F. Fisher (who also served as principal).

This building was divided and made into two homes.  One is the Ted Callahan home located at 1016 Water Street.  The other half was the Pearl Johnson home which was located in Fross Park but was torn down around the year 2000.

In March, 1903, a bond issue vote was held.  Ladies, as well as men, could vote on the bond issue.  Seventy-seven ladies took their turn at the polls with 53 voting for and 23 against.  Gentlemen voting also passed the issue as 128 men voted for the bond issue and 62 against.  The proposition to bond the district to build a $10,000 school house carried by a more than 2 to 1 vote.  Later it was learned that only $6,300 in bonds could be issued.  The community was then asked to vote for a tax not exceeding ten mills on the dollar to supplement the bond issue.  This also passed.  The school was built on the present site.

As education grew, students wanted to continue their schooling after leaving Center Point.  In June, 1914, the school became accredited, allowing Center Point graduates to continue their education at the three state schools:  Iowa State Teachers’ College, the State College of Agriculture and Mechanics’ Art and the State University. 

A September 27, 1917 article in the Center Point Independent presented the need for a gymnasium at the school.  At the time, students played basketball in Yost Hall which was rented by the district.  This hall was located on the upper story of a business building on the southwest corner of Main and Washington Streets.  The school had made several improvements in the hall and yet, it wasn’t ideal for the players.  It seemed to make more sense to build and maintain a structure of their own.  At that time, they already had $260.10 of the $650 to $700 needed for the building project.  The article asked for subscriptions from individuals in the community to aid the project.  With the help of students and parents, the wood structure went up on the southwest corner of the school lot.  The building was to be 56’ long and 34’ wide.  A 10’ attachment on each end was to be used for dressing rooms and “shower baths”.  One end of the gym housed a large round stove with wire around it for safety.  Two decks of seats lined each side of the floor for the spectators who eagerly followed the sport.  Sidewalks on the south led to the boy’s outhouse and the north side had a sidewalk to the girl’s outhouse.

School board minutes from October of 1933 proposed renovations and the addition of classrooms and a gymnasium to the building at an estimated cost of $16,700.  The voters of the community again showed their support at the polls in February of 1934 as they passed a bond issue for $12,000 with 245 voting for and 54 against.

On June 26, 1951 in a special election, voters approved spending $5,000 for constructing a two-classroom school building on the present school site.  The 28’ x 40’ frame building was built adjacent to the main building on the south.  The west side of the building was used for typing classes and the east for the band.  The rooms had oak floors, sheet rock walls, and acoustical tile ceilings.  An oil burner in each room provided the needed heat.  An article in a local newspaper praised the school board for providing needed rooms a minimum expense to the district.  

Consolidation plans for the Center Point District were arranged and many country schools in the area held their last classes in May 1952.  Those merging with Center Point were the Washington Rural Independent District, Washington Township District, and 13½ sections in the southern half of Grant Township.  In the fall of 1952, there were 211 high school students and 99 students in the lower grades.  This jump in enrollment soon made it necessary for additional classroom space.

In March of 1953, voters approved $190,000 bond issue for building and furnishing an addition and reconstructing and equipping the existing building.  The $200,000 addition took 15 months to complete.  This new addition was built in 1954 on the north side of the existing building.  It provided rooms for kindergarten, four grade classes, commercial classes, home economics, science, music, and shop.  A classroom from the old building was also remodeled to provide a reception room, superintendent’s office, board meeting room, and restroom.  At this time, the frame building built in 1951 was moved to provide a house for the superintendent.  Once the building was moved, a breezeway and garage were added.  This building is now the district office.  District enrollment at this time was running around 475 students K-12. 

In 1957, the district once again needed additional space and a $78,000 bond issue was the answer.  These bonds allowed the district to add basement rooms as well as a single story addition to the south side of the building.

The kitchen, which was in the basement of the 1903 building, was definitely too small by 1961.  At a special election voters approved a bond issue in the amount of $118,000 and also authorized the Board of Education to spend $23,000 from the schoolhouse fund.

This included a second floor addition to the south wing, an all-purpose room and connecting hallway, and a new kitchen.  The second floor addition was the first part of the project and was completed by January of 1962.  The hallway and all-purpose room, which would serve as cafeteria and band rehearsal room, were finished for classes the following fall.  The final cost of the 12,224 square foot addition was approximately $141,000.

A 1968 bond issue received overwhelming support from the community.  The addition actually consisted of two parts and took almost two years to complete.  On the west side of the building, the shop was expanded with a band room above it.  A second addition was attached to the south end of the 1957 addition.  On the upper level, the addition included a new media center for the junior and senior high.  The ground level had a second media center for the elementary, an art room, elementary principal’s office, and audio-visual room.

Four attempts at passing bond issues in the 1970s failed.  However, by 1984, the need for construction was apparent.  A multiple step project began with the construction of a new gymnasium.  This allowed the old gymnasium to be converted into 4 high school and 5 elementary classrooms, which were occupied by students in early 1985.  The new gymnasium area cleared out the old locker room area.  A little remodeling and this space provided a wrestling room and a classroom. 

The fall of 1989 brought changes to the Center Point District.  Urbana, Shellsburg, and Center Point had been looking into the possibility of whole-grade sharing during the previous year.  As the districts continued to talk, Shellsburg chose to go a different direction and Center Point and Urbana started a shared program.  This seemed to make sense since the two districts had been sharing athletic programs for a few years.  At the same time, the old bleacher area was remodeled providing a large vocal music room and an additional classroom.  The former elementary media center was remodeled to become an additional kindergarten room.

The school officially consolidated in 1993 to become Center Point-Urbana Community School District.  The elementary (grades K-4) and high school met in the Center Point building and the Urbana building housed the middle school (grades 5-8).

Since the mid-1990s, both the Center Point and Urbana communities have been growing.  In 1997, the district was literally running out of room.  With the community’s support, a bond issue passed to build a new elementary school.  The school was a pod design, which would make it easy to add on as needed.  Also at this time, seven rooms were added to the Urbana Middle School.  As continued growth caused additional sections at each grade, the new elementary building was soon too small.  In 2003, an additional pod was added, as well as a new small gym for physical education.  At the same time, four more classrooms were added in Urbana.

The CPU Booster Club assisted the athletic program by financing a high school addition consisting of a weight room and wrestling room.  The wrestling program had outgrown the wrestling room, remodeled in 1986, and had been practicing in the all-purpose room after school.  This 2003 addition, attached to the all-purpose room, finally gave the wrestling program a home of its own.

In 1954, the district included 50.5 square miles which were covered by six buses.  By the 1962-63 school year there were 587 students in the district.  Buses covered 45,447 miles with an average per-pupil cost of $46.89.  In 2004, the Center Point-Urbana Community District serves 1,192 students.  The district covers 90 miles and the buses run 61,560 miles, excluding activity or field trips, at a per-pupil cost of $174.49.  One can only wonder how these figures will have changed 50 years from now.