School History

Central High School Beginnings

Central is the oldest public high school in Saint Joseph, Missouri, and one of the oldest in the state. According to David D. March's The History of Missouri, Central was the second public high school in Missouri, and the second oldest public high school west of the Mississippi. In March 1861, the District found it was necessary to open a high school. They rented E.B. Neely's Academy at 111 North 10th Street with Mr. Neely serving as Principal. The school opened with forty students, who paid $1 a month each for tuition, but had to close its doors in June 1861 due to the Civil War. In October 1864, the high school reopened its doors. The school has been open now for 158 consecutive years.

Historic black and white

In 1864, Mr. Neely became the Superintendent of Schools, and in 1866 built a new structure on the southeast corner of 10th and Edmond Streets known as St. Joseph High School. John S. Crosby became the principal succeeding Mr. Neely who had served a dual role for two years.

In 1896, the school was moved to Carpenter's Hill on Olive between 13th and 14th Streets. The old structure became the Robidoux. When Benton High School was established in 1907, the name was changed to Central High School (Foley, 1976).

In 1915, twenty-three students occupied an area of the school and became the first class of the new St. Joseph Junior College. As it grew, more space was needed both for the High School and the Junior College. The new Everett School, directly behind it, was used from 1928 until 1933 and the Junior College was moved there.

In 1933, when the new structure for Central was built at 26th and Edmond, the High School became Roosevelt Junior High, the Robidoux School was closed, the Junior College moved into that building and Everett was once again an elementary school.

Photo of a modern view

Early enrollment was small, but over the years the number of students continued to increase. The population increased to almost 2,400 in the 1970's, as a result of the Baby Boom. This increase caused Central to expand the original Main Building in 1961, with a 24-room addition, now called the Sophomore Annex.

By 1967, there again was need for more space, so in 1968, a 25-room addition known as the Freshman Annex was completed. Since 1968, two other spaces have been added; the current library, completed in 2002, and the Morgan Multipurpose Building in 2013. Today, the student population fluctuates around 1,600 students.

Central High School in the 21st Century

Central is one of the outstanding high schools in Missouri. It is recognized as a leader in both its academic and extracurricular offerings. The depth and breadth of the curriculum provides each student with an education unique to each individual.

Students have opportunities to earn credit through a diverse curriculum in English Language Arts, Science, Math, Social Studies, World Languages, Practical Arts (Family and Consumer Sciences and Industrial Technology), Physical Education, ROTC, Special Education, and Fine Arts. Advanced Placement, Dual Credit, A+ Program, Project Lead the Way, High School of Business, and Registered Youth Apprenticeships add additional rigorous course offerings.

Central also boasts superior athletics. Central competes in the Greater Kansas City Suburban League, the largest high school athletic conference in the state. The diversity of its exceptional extracurricular programs mirrors the diversity of the community it serves.

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