History of Schools in Caldwell County, Missouri
Source: Polo, Missouri, School District
Education is the early times of Caldwell County was largely received at home or in a small combination churh/school building. In the early 1900's, the county was completely organized with 77 school districts. At the present time through reorganization, consolidation and annexations, there are 11 public schools serving Caldwell County children. Those K-12 school district's located in the county are Braymer, Hamilton, Breckenridge, and Polo. K-8 districts in the county are Mirabile, Kingston, Cowgill, and New York. Those neighboring school districts that have a portion of their district within Caldwell County are Cameron, Lathrop, and Ludlow.
In early 1836, a portion of Ray County was set aside by the State government expressly for the Mormon people, and was called Caldwell Country. Therefore, one of the first, and possibly the first school in Caldwell County, was held in 1836 in the old town of Far West. School was held in a large building that was also used as a church, Court House, and Town Hall. In 1837, the Mormons built a school house in the center of Section 29 of Mirabile Township. The first school teacher in Caldwell County is normally regarded as Mary Ann Duty, a Mormon. The Mormons had several free schools in the county that were supported by the Church's tithing system.
Following the Mormon War, and the exodus of the Mormons from the county in 1838, Caldwell County pupils attended "subscription" schools--a school in which the parents paid the teacher for teaching their children. These schools, usually held at the home of the teacher, and existed into the 1860's. In later years subscription schools were combined with new tax supported schools. Some "subscription" schools later became public schools (i.e. a log cabin school lacated on a farm in Mirabile Township later organized as the Pleasant Valley School, as well as the Black Oak School, and the Liberty Bell District).
The first free school on record in Caldwell County was built in Kingston, south of the public square, in 1846. It later became the Kingston town school. In 1853, the State Legislature passed legislation that provided state money for school. A State Superintendent was provided, whose duties were to look after the general interest of the schools. Each county was to have a County Commissioner of Common Schools, whose duty was to examine teachers, grant certificates of qualification, apportion county school money, call meetings of the voters, and visit schools. Each Congressional Township was divided into school districts (at first not to exceed 4, but later as many as 8 in some Caldwell County townships).
The year of 1876 marks the first recorded school in Polo. It was one room just south of the present railroad tracks, and just across the road to the northwest from Stage Coach Park. The first brick school building was a 3 story building built in 1907 for a sum total of $14,000. It was located in the present student parking lot. In 1940, a gymnasium, library, and 2 classrooms were added to the facility.
Prior to the construction of the gym, basketball games were held in the upstairs of the hardware store downtown. The present ag shop was built in 1949. Additional land for the school was purchased around 1950. An elementary school and small gym were built on that site and completed for occupancy in the fall of 1952, with Ruth Kincaid as the first principal. The football field to the west of the elementary was completed in the early 1950's. Prior to that time, football games were played in a cattle field to the north of Highway 116 and Frances Street. Games were played during the day. There were no lights or bleachers. Students would walk with their teacher to games. Prior, to the game, someone would remove the "cowpiles" from the playing field. The present high school was completed in 1965.
In 1975, the high school gymnasium was built, along with an addtion to the ag shop. The original 1907 building was also "torn down" at that time. In 1989, the high school, gymnasium, and elementary buildings were connected with the addition of a middle school. At that time the old gymnasium was torn down. A new elementary addition was constructed during the 1999-2000 school year, and was ready for occupancy in the fall of 2000. At the same time the library, kitchen, cafeteria, art room, counseling area, science rooms, and old elementary rooms were remodeled with new heating and air conditioning added. A new ventilation system was added to the high school gymnasium.
The above information was prepared from the Caldwell County, Missouri History, Volume I, dated 1985, as compiled by the Caldwell County Historical Society, pp 4-13; and notes and information supplied by Dan Spidle, a retired Polo R-VII Maintenance Supervisor.
This page was last updated September 24, 2006.