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Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, Published April 25 2010

Moving memories of Woodrow Wilson school

On June 6, 1917, the Fargo Board of Education accepted a bid of $69,990 to build an elementary school in the 5th Ward on 13th Street North (now University Drive) between Third and Fourth avenues.

Fargo architects Haxby & Braseth drew plans and specifications and would supervise the construction. At the time, it was customary for the architects to receive a commission of 5 percent of the cost of the building as a fee for services.

A committee of 146 people chose the name for the school from a suggested list containing the names of President Woodrow Wilson, General Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain, Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Dewey. But some committee members who weren’t satisfied with those choices recommended Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Liberty. The French philosopher Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire also received a vote.

Woodrow Wilson, president at that time, also won this election with 87 votes.

The Woodrow Wilson school was completed in 1918 and included “12 regular classrooms: kindergarten, music, art, penmanship, science, auditorium, gymnasium, opportunity room, nurse, two shower rooms, office, two lavatories for pupils.”

The “opportunity room” was apparently where student behavioral problems such as abusive language, fighting, bullying, skipping class, tardiness, disruption and gum chewing were handled.

The 1929 Directory of Fargo Public Schools lists the school’s Teaching Corps. The principal was Gertrude Hoag. The nurse was Ellen Saarela. Teachers were Thelma Kleyn, Edith Colwell, Hattie Roy, Minnie Jensen, Katherine Lorshbough, Fannie Dunning, Ivy Brandt, Carol Atwood, Elizabeth Driscoll, Pearl Peterson, Eva Andinson, Dora Mellen, Edna Rost, Grace Clemens and Elvina Hanson. Custodians were Adolph Peterson and H. Larson.

The directory also had rules on school hours: “Teachers are required to be on duty 20 minutes before the opening of each session and for 30 minutes after the closing of the afternoon session. … Supervisors and assistant supervisors shall maintain regular schedules, to be approved by the superintendent. Such schedules shall not be varied from without previous approval of the superintendent.”

By the early 1970s, elementary classes at Woodrow Wilson were being phased out. It later became an alternative high school to encourage dropouts to return to school. However, Fargo’s first alternative high school was at The Depot Youth Center at 701 Main Ave. before it moved to Woodrow Wilson.

Starting in fall 2011, the Fargo School District’s alternative school will move to Agassiz School, also known as South Campus II, which now houses south Fargo ninth-graders. Those students will transfer to the new Davies High School and Fargo South.


Sources: Forum files, Institute for Regional Studies at NDSU