Niagara Gazette


April 22, 2013

HIGGS: A lesson in Falls junior high schools


Niagara Gazette — Apparently the survey was adopted as construction began in 1922 on the South Junior High School. The Niagara Falls School District gained national attention as a progressive school system and educators from other areas visited during the 1920s and ‘30s. Somewhere along the line these “innovative ideas” were dropped and many of my peers wish these “daily life courses” were still a part of our current education system. Cooking and family meals are no longer a part of daily living as most of our children seem to be eating in school or out of convenience stores.

Anyway, that is a story for another day. South Junior was the first to be completed in the city and one of the few in the entire state in this concept. Quick action was needed to provide classrooms for the high school students who were displaced after a fire devastated the original Niagara Falls High School in 1922. South Junior was completed just in time to provide space for high school juniors and seniors, along with seventh and eighth grade classes. It went back to its original purpose in 1924 when the new high school was completed.

Located on Portage Road between Ferry and Walnut avenues, South Junior was heated by pipes laid between the two schools under Walnut Avenue. The original three-story brick building held 46 classrooms, an auditorium, gymnasium and pool and cost $862,002.86 which included land, building and equipment.

The first principal was Walter Fraser, followed by Elmer A. Knowles who held the record of the longest tenure as principal in South Junior history. He served from 1925 to 1941. During the 50th anniversary in may 1972, Edward J. O’Connor was principal and in 1985, when the school closed as a junior high school, Robert LaDuca was principal and probably the last one out of the building. It was reopened, however, during the 1986-1987 school year during the construction of the Niagara Street School to provide a learning center for its students. It served for a while as the Community Education Center providing adult education and other programs. It now sits empty waiting for reuse and a new future we hope.

We head to the North End next week to my former alma mater, North Junior High School.

Norma Higgs serves with the Niagara Beautification Commission and Niagara Falls Block Club Council.

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