School History

In January of 1908 Olympia's population had grown to 10,000 people. The influx of new families and their children led to overcrowded conditions in the three existing Olympia schools. The school board decided to build a new school, named after President Theodore Roosevelt, on the north side of town. The new school had two rooms and cost $944 to build. The school board obtained bids on twenty-five cords of wood to heat the new school. There was no electricity. The rest room facilities, two outhouses and a water pump, were in the school yard.

Roosevelt School held its first day of school on September 1908. Ninety students living north of Bigelow Avenue enrolled. All the students walked to school. In some cases they lived more than two miles away. Katherine Langridge was the first principal. She also taught third, fourth, and fifth grades. Alice Roche was hired to teach first and second grade. Parents bought their children’s school books for 25 cents in the downtown stores. During the warm months of the year, children did not have to wear shoes. All children starting school were expected to know their parents’ names and address. The subjects taught in third through fifth grade were reading, writing, drawing, spelling, arithmetic, geography, and history.

Over the years, Roosevelt School has had a number of building additions to make room for its expanding student population. In 1949 Roosevelt received the first new elementary school building in Olympia's modernization program. The new school was made out of brick and had one floor with no steps or ramps. The classrooms were painted pastel shades to give "a cheerful and homelike atmosphere". The district boasted that it was the safest type of building being planned. Families rapidly built houses in the neighborhood so they could send their children to the new school. Roosevelt's student population increased 32% between 1948 and 1949. When the new school opened in 1949 there were 395 students enrolled. Although the school had the most modern facilities, it lacked a public address system. Roosevelt's innovative principal Wilfred Reeves would go down the hall on roller skates to notify teachers or students when they had a phone call. Luckily the PTA was able to raise sufficient funds to install a public address system. Forty years later in 1989, Roosevelt opened another new school using a special floor plan where grades were clustered into three pods; one for kindergarten and first grade, one for second and third grade, and one for fourth and fifth grade.

During its history, the Roosevelt staff has always sought innovative educational practices. Roosevelt was the first school in the district to implement parent teacher conferences in the mid-1950's. In the early 1980's it was first in the district to use the MERGE program, merging special education children into the regular classrooms.

Sources: The Daily Olympian of 1908, Ester Knox's Diary of the Olympia School District, and Dr. Stillman Wood