About Us

A Brief History of our School

Whitson Elementary School was built in 1952 at a total cost of $883,826.37. It was originally named Southwest School because it was located in what at that time was the southwest corner of Topeka. The building was intended to be both an elementary school and a junior high. That is why it has a beautiful auditorium and an oversized gymnasium. However, Topeka was growing so rapidly that school administrators decided to make it only an elementary school. When school opened in the fall of 1952 there were 803 students, 27 classrooms, and 27 teachers. There were no special education rooms or special classes such as music, library, or physical education. Dr. Frank E. Wilson became the first principal and remained in that position for 25 years.

Southwest Topeka continued to grow, and an annex was rented at 19th Street and Seabrook. At that time Southwest's enrollment was approximately 1200 students. Then it was the largest elementary school in Kansas. The average class size was 32 to 35 students. Dr. Wilson tried to keep the class size down to 30 or 31 students per room.

In 1963, Superintendent Mose J. Whitson died. As a neighbor of Southwest School, he was popular with both faculty and students. He often played Santa Claus for Christmas parties. The school's name was changed to Whitson in his honor.

Dr. Wilson said that Whitson had always had a student council, a tradition that still exists at Whitson today. It was the Student Council's decision to change the logo from Eagles to Warriors. Students had a contest to design the logo. Dr. Wilson also said that there was a dress code in the earlier days of Whitson. All girls had to wear dresses, and female teachers were not allowed to wear slacks. Shorts were forbidden for everyone, and students were sent home for inappropriate dress. It was not until after 1970 that the dress code relaxed.

When Dr. Wilson was interviewed, he was asked to comment on the changes that have been made at Whitson. He stated that the discipline problems have not changed that much through the years. He also remembered that Arnold Street used to be lined with a row of large elm trees which are almost all gone today. He noted that Whitson's population became so small at one time that many classrooms were converted into district office space. Even though those rooms are again being used as classrooms, carpeting and adjusted spaces remain in a few. Whitson's population has continued to change throughout the years. It is once again on the rise, now holding just over 500 students. The school district is dedicated to keeping the class size smaller than in the "olden days," trying to keep class size between 17 and 25 students. This means that Whitson had three new classrooms added during the 2001-2002 school year to make space for the growing school population. In 2009, Whitson began the journey of adding a Kindergarten Dual Language Program. Each year following the initial start, another grade level was included. Whitson now offers the opportunity in grades K-5. The staff in these classrooms are expected to be bilingual in both English and Spanish for all subjects. Students receive math instruction in English and science and social studies in Spanish. In K-1, language arts is in their native language only. In grades 2-5, language arts is taught in both languages. In 2019 Whitson transisoned to becomeing a Spanish Enrichment Signature School! This differs from the traditional Gomez Model for Dual Language. Our students who apply to the Spanish Enrichment program now receive 45 min. of Spanish Language Arts daily. This is a full immersion classroom of Spanish learning. The Spanish Enrichment classroom teacher is a native Spanish speaker and the classroom teacher who is bilingual will push into the Spanish classroom to support students on a more differentiated level! The students core content of English language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies will all be taught in English.

Mr. Ted Walters replaced Dr. Wilson as principal in 1977, and served until the 1987-88 school year. Mr. Walters initiated the idea of dedicating the auditorium to Dr. Wilson when Dr. Wilson retired from the Topeka Public Schools in 1982. Mr. Wes Peters, the third principal at Whitson School, replaced Mr. Walters in the fall of 1987. After Mr. Peters retired in 1989, Mr. Dale Cushinberry became principal. In 1994, Mr. Cushinberry moved on to an area high school, and Mr. Jeff Litfin became the fifth principal at Whitson. In 1999, when Mr. Litfin moved elsewhere in the district, Dr.Terry Sandlin became the principal at Whitson Elementary, and remained in that position until the summer of 2006 when he took a job at the administrative center. Mrs. Rebecca Kramer became the principal of Whitson during the summer of 2006. Ms. Jessica Figueroa was the principal during the 2014-2015 school year. The current principal is Mrs. Keelin Pierce.

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