Thomas Jefferson Elementary School opened its doors in September of 1942.
In February 1942, The Wichita Eagle said, “the school will be one of the finest in the city. It will have 12 classrooms, a kindergarten, a library, an auditorium, and other facilities including a health room.” The school was completed in less than 6 months.
The school was the answer to the growing population in Hilltop Manor, which was created to house the growing number of aircraft employees in Wichita.
When it opened the building could not hold all the kids, so classes were housed in other nearby buildings. By 1944, plans were in the works to enlarge the school.
By fall 1946, Jefferson was the largest elementary school in the state. Munger, Caldwell, and Fabrique schools were built in the early 50’s to relieve overcrowding at Jefferson School.
The school was named in honor of Thomas Jefferson
He was born on April 13, 1743, in Shadwell, Virginia. Jefferson was educated at the College of William & Mary, he started there at the age of just 16. He practiced law and married his third cousin, Martha Skelton on January 1, 1772.
Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, served as the Secretary of State, and became the third president of the United States. He was sworn in on March 4, 1801, by Chief Justice John Marshall. Jefferson also oversaw the Louisiana Purchase and sent Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition westward. Jefferson served two terms in office. After leaving office he founded the University of Virginia and sold his huge collection of books to the Library of Congress.
His health declined dramatically in 1825 and by June of 1826 he was bedridden. He passed away on July 4, 1826, at the age of 83. He is buried at his Monticello home in Charlottesville, Virginia.
On April 5, 1999, a tornado caused about $300,000 in damage to the school. The Wichita Eagle wrote, “Moments before a tornado rampaged through Jefferson Elementary’s school yard on Monday morning, the children left bowls of Rice Krispies cereal half-eaten and took refuge in the portable’s restroom… As the group headed to the bathroom, they saw tables blowing across the floor, one teacher said, ‘I’ll never forget those cereals bowls flying around in the air.’” Three of the four portables were lost in the storm, the only one to survive was the one with the kids in it.
The school board would start building FEMA approved storm shelters in the schools. Wichita was the first public school district in the country to do this.
Jefferson dedicated a new addition including eight classrooms and a library on September 26, 2002.
Check out the histories of other Wichita Schools at Be True To Your School.