The Parkway School District celebrated its 50th Anniversary on May 8, 2004. It marked the date of the special election in 1954 which resulted in the consolidation of three elementary school districts into one large district. The reason for the consolidation was simple: The people living in the three districts felt the growing need for a high school for their children. Since population was still sparse, it was necessary for the three areas to merge and pool their resources in order to build a high school.
The three districts involved were Fern Ridge, Weber and Mason Ridge. A previous consolidation in 1951 had brought Barretts and Manchester Schools into the Mason Ridge C-2 District. The final consolidation in 1954 produced a 68 square mile district, larger than the city of St. Louis, and located in the west central part of St. Louis County. At that time, the area could be described as partly rural and partly suburban.
The Consolidation was Controversial
The consolidation itself was not accomplished easily. The communities involved enjoyed their own unique identity, their history, their leaders and their preferences. Although the need for a high school was apparent, the price was more than some citizens were willing to pay – loss of identity, merging of interests, surrender of local autonomy, etc. Underlying these concerns was a haunting possibility of increased taxes, never a popular prospect. In each of the three communities, the lines were drawn, with many favoring consolidation and others opposing.
Those who favored consolidation were motivated by two strong incentives: 1) the fact that families had started migrating westward in increasing numbers and 2) the long-time need for a high school. As it was, when students finished the eighth grade at Fern Ridge, Weber, or the schools included in the Mason Ridge District, they faced the problem of where to go for high school. Most of them attended Clayton, Eureka, Maplewood, or Ladue, with their local elementary district paying the tuition. Others went on to private or parochial high school.
Citizens Study the Issues
A lay group was organized to gather information and to study every facet of the proposed reorganization. Called the “Citizens Study Project.” It represented voters of the Weber School District, Fern Ridge School District and Mason Ridge C-2 School Districts. Two reports are included in this packet as examples of the work of this dedicated group:
- Second Draft of Report to Central Steering Committee from Sub-Committee on Reorganization – February 1954.
- Final Report of the Junior High School Committee.
A major concern at the time was to resolve the question of including or not including the Valley Park School District in the final merger. After much deliberation, the decision was made to limit the consolidation to Weber, Fern Ridge, and Mason Ridge C-2.
Consolidation is Approved
The study, discussion and planning that went into the reorganization paid off at the polls on May 8, 1954, when the consolidation was approved by a vote of 1,031 in favor and 537 opposed. A simple majority of the vote in each district was required for passage. The race was the hottest in Mason Ridge C-2, where the vote was 467 to 337. The election, in effect, created the present Parkway School District just before the huge population and building boom which caused enrollment to grow from 1,448 students to nearly 25,000 during the first 25-year span.
Following consolidation, a special election was called to select a six-member Board of Education to replace the three separate Boards. In May 1955 a $750,000 bond issue was proposed and passed to start the junior-senior high school, which is now Central Junior High School. The community took great pride in this accomplishment, which was the final goal in the long struggle to reorganize and provide a high school education for local youth. As so often happens in human affairs, the conclusion of one series of events paved the way for a new era. In this case, the consolidation marked the beginning of a new school system which emerged on the West County scene and which has flourished during 50 years of service.
In commemorating the anniversary, special tribute is paid to the backers of the consolidation, who persevered in achieving their goal. Because o their effort, foresight and leadership, Parkway was created on a solid foundation which has served it well. The 50th birthday observance provides an opportunity to say “thank you.”