The Franklin School district was created in 1871 when the board of supervisors of the newly organized county decided that the three voting precincts should also serve as school districts. The Franklin precinct became District No. 2. The first classes in this district were held in a dugout-log structure on what was then the R. B. Dunlap farm and what is now the site of the Franklin Country Club. Miss CorneliaCook served as teacher for 17 or more pupils during that three-month term.
Five years later, on June 19, 1876, this school district was divided. The north part remained District No.2 and the south part was designated as District No. 33. It was under this number that the Franklin Public School operated until 1955 when it became R-6 after a reorganization joined several rural schools with the Franklin school to form the new district.
The first school in District No. 33 was held on the Ernest Arnold farm, one mile southwest of the present fairgrounds, in the fall of 1 877 and the spring of 1878. This was a three-month term taught by John Herberson who was paid $20 a month. Sixteen pupils attended during that term.
Formal classes were not held in the district again until the fall of 1880. This was a four month term that extended into the early months of 1881. These classes were held in a sod house near the dugout-log structure that served as Franklin’s first school. C.W. VanLanningham taught 39 students for a salary of $25 a month. Prior to this time, Mr. VanLanningham gave private lessons, going from house to house, using large letters cut from newspapers to teach the children how to read.
Before the close of this term, it was evident to the community that a larger building was needed. With no money in the district treasury, $5 shares were sold, enabling the district to build a small schoolhouse out of cottonwood lumber with donated labor. In this flimsy structure, possessing neither a foundation nor plastered walls, a three-month term was held in 1881. It stood northwest of the brick school that was built in 1917 and which served the district until 1966. The cottonwood schoolhouse was used only one year. Bonds were voted in 1881 to buy a site and build a two-room schoolhouse. Seventy-five dollars was paid for the site, which was to serve as the location for all subsequent school buildings until 1966. A contract for $985 was awarded to Thomas Sturgeon. Until the structure was completed in June I, 1882. school was held in a building that was later to become known as the A. T. Ready home. It was located just west of the future site of the Lincoln Hotel.
Within two years more rooms were needed. A duplicate of the first building was constructed and joined to the original with a structure that tripled the available space, resulting in a handsome frame schoolhouse that was completed in September, 1884. Four teachers were required to teach in this school. Textbooks were adopted in 1886, and a two-year high school course was added.
The number of students continued to outgrow the provided space. In 1894 the second grade was moved to an old creamery building on Main Street. In 1895 the Intermediate department was taught for a short time in the Lutheran Church until that building was declared unsafe. Classes were then moved to the Baptist Church.
The Franklin Public School was designated as a County Normal School in 1907-’08 and began training students to be teachers. For the first time, the school term ran for nine months and included eleven grades. A year later a twelfth grade was added. The school was now offering Manual Training, Normal Training, YMCA, YWCA,baseball, football, and basketball.
A description of this school appeared in the Franklin County News in December, 1911.
The School ground in the west central part of the city embraces nearly two full blocks. It is finely set with vigorous elm, maple, olive trees and shrubs, except the west half which is reserved as an athletic field, well traded for track, baseball, and football. Good cement walks lead to the school from all parts of the city. The school building, a beautiful one of eleven rooms, has five large rooms for the grades; and for the high school, an assembly room, two recitation rooms, one laboratory, 011e library and reading room, and a superintendent’s room, besides an abundance of store and stock room. It is well lighted and ventilated and provided with roomy halls, cloak and toilet rooms. More than $15,000 has been spent for building and furnishing Electric bells call classes throughout the building. It is supplied with city water on both floors and in the laboratory.
This schoolhouse served District #33 until 1917 when a $50,000 brick building was erected in front of it. Home Economics, Science Laboratory, and Commercial departments were added to the curriculum.
An addition to this brick building was built on the south side in 1925. The frame schoolhouse that had served the district since 1882 was torn down. In 1939 a splendid auditorium, designed by alumnus Doyt Naden (Class of 1929), was built on the campus by the Works Progress Administration.
By 1966 a larger, more modern school was needed to replace the aging brick building. With a twenty-year bond program in the amount of $446,000, with interest rates varying from 3 to 3.5 percent, a new elementary school, gymnasium/auditorium, locker rooms, and a multipurpose room were built.
The old school continued to be used as a junior and senior high school until it was condemned by the State Fire Marshal in 1973. A special election was held in April of that year and a $500,000 bond was approved with which to add 27,400 square feet of space to the elementary school for a junior and senior high school. This wing was completed in 1974. The old brick schoolhouse was razed that same year. Only the auditorium remained on the campus and is presently being used by the school and the community for various activities.
In 1991, more space was needed in the elementary wing and new regulations regarding the handicapped had to be met. In early May, 1991, construction began on an additional 2,000 sq. ft.to the elementary wing of the present building. This addition was needed to house one elementary classroom, one elementary computer lab, a Chapter I room, and a girls and boys restroom suitable for the handicapped. This project extended the elementary wing at the northeast corner of the building in an easterly direction. The cost of the addition was approximately $165,000.00 and was funded by the school building fund.