(Special Note: District officials wish to acknowledge long-time Kokomo High School Principal Frank Moore for many of the facts contained here in our history. In addition, several notes were taken from the Howard County Indiana Family History, 1894-1994, book created by the Howard County Genealogical Society.)
Only three years passed after the City of Kokomo was settled before education was available in 1845 for Howard County children. Dr. Adam Clark, the county’s first teacher, established the first school in a rough log church constructed in 1844 on the east side of Washington Street near Superior Street. Tuition was $2 per pupil for a 13-week term.
Subscription schools continued until 1853 with the annual attendance ranging from 16 to 38 pupils. By 1850, a general movement was underway to establish free schools, and in 1853 the township trustees erected a log schoolhouse at the corner of Washington and Walnut Streets. This was the first building specifically constructed for use as a school, and the first free school in Howard County.
In 1855 when Kokomo became a town, free schools were continued under the supervision of the town board. In 1856, 145 children were enrolled in free schools. Free schools were established officially when the Constitutional Convention of 1850-61 declared: “Knowledge and learning, generally diffused throughout a community being essential to preservation of a free government, it shall be the duty of the general assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement and to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of common schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.”
In 1865, Kokomo was incorporated as a city and the first Board of School Trustees constructed two schools, including the original Columbian School, before Howard College was organized in the Normal Building in 1870 with M.B. Hopkins as President. With no high school available, advanced students were sent to college and their tuition was paid from school funds. After Professor Hopkins was elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1872, Howard College was closed.
The discovery of natural gas in Kokomo sparked unprecedented growth for the city and the school system. By 1902, two more schools had been built, including Central Junior High School. Kokomo pupils entered the new building March 22, 1898, and then the Old Normal Building burned the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1898.
C.V. Haworth began his 33-year career as superintendent in 1913, and is considered one of the great contributors of education in Howard County. Fortunately, Haworth and the Board secured ground on Superior Street just south of the high school because the high school building burned March 24, 1914. For the remainder of the school term, school was conducted in half-day sessions in the Library, YMCA, and City Hall. In addition to expanding the role education played in the community, Haworth oversaw the building of Jefferson, McKinley, Riley, Roosevelt, Wallace, Willard, and Douglass schools, as well as additions to the high school.
A gymnasium that bore Haworth’s name was opened in 1925 and it burned in 1944. Memorial Gym was built to replace the Haworth gym in 1949. In 1929, through the generosity of A.J. Kautz, who served many years on the Board of Trustees, the school corporation was presented with Kautz Field.
The establishment of a $1 tax rate in 1946 to amass a cumulative building fund for remodeling, expanding, and replacing buildings was one of the first acts by Haworth’s successor, O.M. Swihart. Over the next 25 years, that action resulted in the construction of Bon Air (1956), Elwood Haynes (1955), Lafayette Park (1957), Maple Crest (1956), Pettit Park (1953), Sycamore (1962/68), Boulevard (1965), and Haworth High School (1968).
In the fall of 1968, enrollment at Kokomo Schools peaked at 13,230 students. As Howard County celebrated its Sesquicentennial, the official 1993-94 enrollment was 7,478. As the enrollment decreased, several older buildings became obsolete and were closed, including Douglass, Jefferson, Riley, Roosevelt, and Willard schools. In 1984, Haworth High School and Kokomo High School were combined.
Presently, the Haworth building has been renovated and expanded into Kokomo High School with an adjoining Kokomo Area Career Center. McKinley now houses the high school alternative program.
The old high school building is now a magnet school and houses the Central Middle International School. That building also houses the KEY (gifted and talented) program and will house the Central Middle Integrated Arts School for the 2014-15 school year. Maple Crest Middle School also houses a Career School for 8th graders, while Bon Air Middle School is a 1-to-1 Technology Academy. Lincoln serves as the middle school alternative program.
International Schools are located at Lafayette Park Elementary and Sycamore Elementary, which also houses the KEY (gifted and talented program). 1-to-1 Technology Academies are located at Pettit Park Elementary and Bon Air Elementary. Traditional Schools are located at Boulevard Elementary and Elwood Haynes Elementary. An Integrated Arts School for students K-6 is housed at Wallace.
Dr. Jeff Hauswald currently serves as Superintendent of the Kokomo School Corporation.