Jefferson County Public Schools (Kentucky) - History - Louisville Public School District (1829-1975)

Louisville Public School District (1829-1975)

On April 24, 1829, the City of Louisville established the first public schools for children under sixteen years of age. A board of trustees was selected, and Dr. Mann Butler was selected as the first head. The first school began operation in the upper story of a Baptist church on the SW corner of Fifth and Green Streets (now Liberty Street). The next year, the first public school building in the Louisville Public School District was erected at Fifth and Walnut (now Muhammed Ali Blvd). This property was purchased from one of the trustees for $2,100. Though Louisville's charter called provided for the establishment of free schools, the school established at Fifth and Walnut charged primary grades $1.00 per quarter of instruction and all other grades $1.50. Tuition was waived if the trustees felt a child was unable to pay. Instruction was given using the Lancastrian system of teaching, wherein higher-level students taught the younger while the teacher and assistants supervised and instructed these higher-level students.

After a few years, the state granted half of the property of the Jefferson Seminary for use in constructing a "High School College." By 1838, the city of Louisville had a full-service school system. Tuition was abolished for all Louisville residents in 1851, and 1856, Male High School and Female High School opened their doors. From 1851 until 1871, 17 schools were erected on 20 lots. School enrollment grew from 4,303 at the beginning of that time period to 13,503 at the end. In 1870, the first public schools in the city for African Americans were established in the Center Street African Methodist Church and the First Street African Baptist Church. The first school building for African American students was dedicated on October 7, 1873. At the end of the 1896-7 school year, enrollment reached 26,242 (20,559 white, 5,683 black). Ten years later (1907-8), the school system's enrollment was 29,211 (23,458 white, 5,753 black). In 1912, the Louisville Public School District began annexing property in Jefferson County which had already been annexed by city government, bringing enrollment to 45,841 (33,831 white, 12,010 black) by the 1956 school year, the last year of segregated education in the public schools. In its final year as a separate school district, enrollment was 40,939 (19,171 white, 21,768 black).

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