On Saturday, September 2, 1922, an announcement was made on the front page of the Fort Collins Courier regarding changes being made in the public schools. Of particular interest to me was the formation of Fort Collins very first junior high school. The summary of the article, printed just under the title, stated:
The topic of a junior high had been brought up in the paper as early as 1919. And I believe that there were junior highs already established in neighboring towns such as Wellington and Waverly. (Where is Waverly? The only one that I can find on Google Maps is in the San Juan Valley. But the early paper regularly refers to it as being a school nearby.) In grade school, students would have one teacher for the entire day. In high school, there were departments and students had different teachers for different subjects. The idea of a junior high was to prepare students for the high school format so that they would be more inclined to stay in school and attend high school rather than dropping out of school after 8th grade in order to find a job.
The newspaper article spent a fair amount of time explaining where the new junior high would be housed and how it would be organized. It states, “It has been decided to make the innovation of massing the eighth grades in the recent addition to the high school building. There will be six of those eighth grades, and this will comprise our first Junior High school.” There were also to be two 7th grades in the same annex, but for some reason they were not considered to be a part of the junior high. It’s possible that the 8th graders received instruction from various teachers while the 7th graders kept the grade school format of having only one teacher all day long. Oddly enough, there were two other 8th grade classes, one in the Laurel school (where Centennial High School is now) and one in the Remington school (built in 1891 and demolished in 1968, it was located on Remington Street between Olive and Magnolia). They were also considered to be part of the new junior high, even though they didn’t meet in the same location. No explanation is given as to why there was room for two 7th grades but the two 8th grades would have to meet elsewhere.
The first principal of Fort Collins Junior High was Miss Margaret Demmel. It looks like she had previously been the principal of the Laurel Street School (according to the Colorado School Directory, 1919-1920).
So the mystery of when Fort Collins Junior High was first started has finally been solved. Though it only consisted of the 8th grade, it would eventually expand to include 7th – 9th and fill the entire building vacated by the high schoolers when they moved to Remington Street. The school would become so crowded by the 60s that a new junior high, named after former schools superintendent David Lesher, would be built to relieve the cramped conditions in the building.