Due to rapid growth in the west part of town, the Cape Girardeau Board of Education looked into expanding the school district in 1925. On November 2, 1925, six acres were purchased at a price of $14,000.00 to build Franklin School. A bond issue for $300,000.00 for the purchase and erection of the school was passed. For a contracted price of $179,611.00, work on Franklin School began.
Franklin School opened its doors in 1927 with Nellie Elizabeth Krueger as the first principal. School began at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 3:30 p.m. There were 15 teachers on staff at that time and an active pre-school program. Thirteen classrooms, a library, a public restroom, a janitor’s room were provided. Rooms were designed to seat up to 45 students in a classroom. Franklin served students in grades 1-9. The community continued to grow and flourish. With this growth came the need to expand Franklin School.
On January 13, 1928, Franklin School received a 14” bust statuette of Benjamin Franklin from the Franklin History Club of Central High School.
In 1931 four classrooms and a gym were added to the original building in order to house 615 students. Staff was increased to twenty four teachers. Warm lunches were added and prepared in the Home Economics room because it was too far for students to walk home for lunch.
By 1949 the enrollment was 552 for grades 1-8 with 21 teachers. Classes were even being held in the teachers’ lounge during the 1949-1950 school year. By this time, boys’ basketball and softball teams, band, choir, mixed chorus, and glee clubs were in place.
By 1954 an average of 681 students attended Franklin School including a morning and afternoon kindergarten. Twenty teachers were in charge of this school which included an art teacher and a music instructor and a speech teacher. Mrs. Krueger remained Principal of Franklin. This was to be her last year after 28 years of service at Franklin School. Buses were now running full steam to Koch Addition, North End and Rodney Vista, and Rodney Vista. During the week of November 7-13, American Education Week was honored with 421 parents and community members visiting the school!
By 1960 Ray G. Miller, Jr. was principal for his 5th and final year. Again, 20 teachers served an average of 515 students. A reading disabilities teacher was added in 1957. As before, during American Education Week parents visited Franklin School totaling 488. During Mr. Miller’s reign, a recess schedule was established. No one was to take an afternoon recess if physical education classes were held. If the class had no PE class scheduled, they were allowed a 5 minute break. Franklin was now serving grades K-5 only. During the 1955-1960 period, Mr. Robert K. Renfrow, the Director of Special Education, sent out letters to teachers regarding hearing impairment and the signs to watch. IOWA TEST OF BASIC SKILLS was administered to 3rd and 5th grade students and a summer reading program was installed during this time.
In 1960 teachers’ salaries were increased. A teacher with a B.S. degree will start at $3800.00 and in 9 years will receive $4850.00. A teacher with a M.A. has a starting salary of $4200.00. The school board also denied extra duty pay for those teachers who are doing duties. In another direction, voters rejected another proposed bond issue for a new junior high school a second time in less than 2 months. This was the first time in 26 years a bond issue had been rejected. John R. Miller is the principal of Franklin School beginning in 1961. He is only the third principal in charge since Franklin opened its doors. He is in charge of 20 teachers and 520 students.
In 1964 Franklin School was chosen to “conduct a pilot study in a Continuous Progress Reading Program”. The program was designed for all students to achieve at their own pace. The program has no grade level distinction in reading. The fourteen levels of reading are continuous study through elementary school. Chas Clippard was principal for the 1965-1966 school year.
1966 brought a new principal at Franklin School, Lloyd Gene Estes. Like John Miller before him, he was a teacher at Franklin before taking his new position.
In 1971 Franklin School was the only school with no outward identification. The other schools in the district had their respective names placed on the grounds. Franklin’s Student Council took it upon themselves to rectify this problem. After investigating various means of identifying Franklin School it was decided to place 8 inch white plastic letters above the front door. The Student Council sold school supplies and held a used book sale on play day to pay for the letters.
On December 5, 1972 a special election was held to pass a $995,000.00 bond issue. The money was to be used to renovate Franklin School, complete the remodeling of Washington and Lorimier Schools and construct a new addition to the vocational technical school. The issue passed with a large majority.
The passing of the bond issue did not solve all the problems. When school started in September of 1973, Franklin School could not open its doors. Due to a strike by the Carpenters Union Local 1770, progress on Franklin renovations came to a halt for some time. School began for Franklin students in two separate places. One hundred twenty-four 5th and 6th grade students and two groups of kindergarten children were forced to attend classes at Grace United Methodist Church while grades 1-4 were attending Hawthorne School. In October, the group at Grace United Methodist Church returned to Franklin. The rest came back on November 9th.
The renovations were extensive. The open classroom teaching method was the basis for new room configurations. Classrooms became one large room for each grade except the 3rd and 4th grades which were combined in one room. Walls were removed so teachers could team teach and combine classes. There were 5 private classrooms kept so teachers could use them if privacy was desired. The folding doors were not installed at this time. Franklin also had new plumbing installed along with new heating and air conditioning. The stage and the old shower room were removed. New aluminum windows and front door were installed and the office was completely redecorated. Classrooms were given new carpet and indirect lighting after the ceilings were lowered. Franklin looked brand new.
With the new renovations, came other problems and concerns. Parents and students did not care for the open classrooms. They felt students could not concentrate on their studies nor pay attention in class when several teachers are teaching different lessons. After folding doors were installed, the protests died down.
At the beginning of the school year in 1974 starting time for school was changed from 8:25 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. to meet state requirements. Enrollment now was approximately 330 students.
Franklin was selected as one of 326 schools nationwide to participate in a study of compensatory education in June of 1976. The purpose of this study is to determine the most effective process in improving students’ reading levels and math skills.
September, 1980 a request was made to the city to add a sidewalk on Keller Street between Themis and Independence. 1980 also brought concerns on class size. Franklin had 58 students in 2 first grade classrooms. Cost analysis was looked into but no decision was made.
On January 9, 1987 Gene Estes the principal passed away. The new principal is now Ron Haggard.
In 1992 another new principal came to Franklin School: James Watkins. Mr. Watkins remained principal until his retirement in 1998.
Julie Davenport succeeded Mr. Watkins as principal in 1998 and remained until her husband transferred in 2001. More renovations took place in 2000. There was a conversion of the former gymnasium into a combination art room-cafeteria and an expanded library. A new gym was added on the north side of the building. During the process of renovation, the teachers’ workroom was enlarged, installation of a computer lab, and the second floor faculty restroom was built. The nurse’s office, formerly in the principal’s office, was moved to a private room which included a restroom. Sides Construction was responsible for the renovations with the new gym completed by mid December. The total cost of the renovations was $633,333.
Rhonda Dunham became the principal in 2001. The district had passed another bond issue and construction began on the new high school and reconfiguring for a 5th and 6th grade middle school. Schultz was also closed. At the end of the 2001-2002 school year, Franklin became a K-4 school with 23 teachers, including an ESL teacher, 5 aides, 3 cafeteria workers, and 3 maintenance workers. The two mobile classrooms were no longer in use and moved from the campus. Classrooms were reassigned and teachers began their own redecorating. Three rooms upstairs were converted into two large rooms to accommodate the fourth grade e-Mints rooms. Caring Communities, a state sponsored organization, lost funding and was restructured by the state and was no longer be housed at Franklin school.
Most recently, Franklin Elementary School was rebuilt. A brand new structure was erected directly behind the old school building on the same property. During the 2011-2012 school year, students and teachers were able to watch the progress as steel beams and concrete grew into the building that stands today. The following summer demolition crews brought down the old building piece by piece. Only the newer gymnasium remained. The new building has a replica of the structure that stood on top of the old building. The masonry work that surrounded the front door of the old building with the name "Franklin" moved into the new library. Ribbon cutting ceremonies and excitement about the new Franklin School followed. Spring of 2013 marked the completion of the first school year in the new building.
After three years in the new building, Dr. Rhonda Dunham retired from Cape Girardeau Public Schools. Mr. Ronald Farrow served as principal of Franklin Elementary School two years until 2017. Leigh Ragsdale served as principal of Franklin Elementary during the 2017-2018 school year. April Garner became the principal of Franklin Elementary in July of 2018 and is currently serving as the principal of Franklin Elementary.
1550 Themis Street
Cape Girardeau, MO, 63701