Johnston Community School District History


1852 Brothers, Moses and John Lawson arrived and donated land for a school (Lawson School #7), later called Valley School which was located east of the current Lawson Elementary along NW Beaver Drive and 60th Ave.  The current Lawson Elementary was named after John Lawson. John Lawson was father of six children. Daughter Elizabeth married Nick Otto.  Nick served as treasurer of school district and their son Arlie served on school board. Grandson, Robert Otto served for several years as high school principal.


1914 March 18, 1914

Petition to consolidate parts of Webster and Jefferson townships into a consolidated school.  March 28, 1914 was date of election.


April 13, 1914

First meeting of the board of directors-J.F. Grace (President), J.M. Lansely, F. Roenfield, Bern Snider, R.A. Wilson


A new district called “The Independent Consolidated School District of Webster and Jefferson Townships of Polk County Iowa”.  Rural schools that were brought together by this consolidation where Valley Independent (located east of current Lawson Elementary along NW Beaver Drive and 60th Ave.); Friars Grade School (located one quarter mile west of the present high school along 62nd Ave.); Ridgedale Grade School (located across from Hyperion Golf and Country Club); Woodlawn Independent (along Beaver Dr. in Des Moines section of district just south of Meredith) and McDivitt School (approximately 70th and Meredith). These schools had students through 8th grade, if they wanted to go to 9th grade they either went to Herrold School or DSM.  (Valley, Woodlawn and Ridgedale had to turn over finances to new district.  Friars and McDivitt were included in district and land was sold but no mention of them turning over any finances.)


Independent Consolidated School District of Webster and Jefferson Townships, Polk County, Iowa


“shall the territory hereinafter described be included in the constitutes a consolidated independent school district, as provided for in chapter 143 Acts of the thirty Fourth General Assembly of the state of Iowa to-wit-:-Sections 1-2-3-10-11-12-13-14 Township 79 north, Range 25 west of the 5th P.m. Sections 6-7-18, the north one half of Sec 20, the north one half of Sec 19, the north one half of Sec 21 west of river Twp 79 north, Range 24 west of the one half of Sec 21 west of river Twp 79 north, Range 24 west of the 5th P.M. Sections 5-8-17 west of river Twp 79, north; Range 24 west of the 5th P.M. all in Webster Township, Polk county, Iowa.  Sections 31 and Section 32 west of river Township 80 north, Range 24 west of the 5th P.M. Sections 35 and 36 Twp 80 north, Range 25 west of the 5th P.M. all in Jefferson Township, Polk County, Iowa”


75 votes Yes, 37 votes No, 6 ballots were spoiled.  Taken from board minutes.


1914 Bond Election for $15,000 for purpose of constructing a schoolhouse and purchase site for a building.


1915 A new K-9 building was built on land donated by Ben McKee family – where the fire station now sits.  Purchased for $1,563 for 4.02 acres. There were around 100 students.


1917 In January, a petition was circulated to expand territory of school district and it was voted down.  In March, a petition was tried again and it passed.


April 13 the district name was changed to “The Consolidated Independent District of Johnston, Iowa”


March 16, 1917 proposition


“Shall the territory hereinafter described be included in and form an independent consolidated school district: —


to include all territory in the present Independent Consolidated School District of Webster and Jefferson Townships, Polk County Iowa, also the north-half (N ½) of Sections 23 and 24 and the north-east (NE1/4) quarter of Section 22, all of Section 15, all in Township 79 North, Range 25 West of the 5th P.M. Iowa, section 34, the south half (S ½) of Sections 26 and 25 all in Township 80 North, Range 25 of the south-half of Section 30 Township 80North, Range 24 West of the 5th P.M. Iowa that portion of the south-west (SW1/4) quarter of Section 29 township 80 north, Range 24 west of the 5th P.M. Iowa that is west of the Des Moines Rivers


229 votes, 127 in favor and 102 against-passed on March 26, 1917 and new board April 13, 1917 was then consolidated independent school district of Johnston, Iowa.


Martin Z. Albers first superintendent hired at $100/month.  (He first was principal of building in 8/1915)


7/2/17 communication from M.A. Olmstead, President Urbandale Schools filed no mention of what about.  Urbandale School records were lost in a flooded basement and had no records. State Historical or other state departments and Polk County assessor’s office had no records as to discrepancy of above boundaries and the current boundaries (along Aurora/Meredith in Urbandale).  Earlies map from Polk County Assessors in 1939 showed boundaries along Meredith, like the current boundaries. Unknown as to when/how boundaries changed from vote in 1917 to the boundaries that were shown on the 1939 map (present day boundary line).


1917 Started 9th grade


1918 Added 10th grade


1919 Added 11th grade


1919 School became a K-12 building with addition made to building. This newly accredited school received the first State and Federal aid totaling about $1800. Cost per pupil was estimate to be $9.64.  Six buses carried the 238-295 students to school each day. The seven acres the school building rests on were given as a gift from the farm of Nick Otto.


August 25 passed $35,000 bond referendum for addition to school.


A.E. Burrows hired as superintendent (9/1/19) at $1800/year.


12-foot Studebaker school wagon equipped with brakes and lamps purchased for $305.


1920 First high school graduation held on May 14 (six graduates) and school certified as an accredited high school

First graduates included Elmer Betz, Harry Betz, Greta Ivers, Nellie Otto, Agnes Kuefner, Marie Wilson, Superintendent. A.E. Burrows and Mrs. Delno Hall was the principal.  238 students were in the district this year.


R.W. Fouts hired as superintendent and at next meeting motion to remove him as superintendent and Geroge Zeteymeyer was hired then as superintendent.


1921 C.H. Nickle was hired as superintendent (He did not have a degree and so approval was sought from State of Iowa)


1923 The Community Review (newsletter/paper) story indicated 292 students in September at start of school.


1924 H.H. Van Benthuysen hired as superintendent.


1926 West wing was added to the school building.


1927 School colors were blue and gold (not sure how long before or started this year)

Electric clock with bell for class change is installed in school


1932 The first school student council was organized and the school colors were changed from blue and white to yellow and blue and later to purple and gold (1935?).


1932 Board signed agreement with Master-Craftsmen to create and establish a school crest.


1932 Mrs. C.C. Waterbury was first woman elected to school board.


1935 L.L. Peterson hired as superintendent.


1935 School colors changed to purple and gold (Ray Schleihs had letters that were blue and gold? white and purple and gold…he graduated in 1935 and so assume 1935 or three years prior changed to purple/gold.


1938 L.L. Peterson terminated as superintendent (4.25.38)


1939 C.J. Madden hired as superintendent.  


1941 Roy Hefti becomes superintendent.


1942 Wesley D. Clampitt becomes superintendent.


1943 Mr. Hobart A. Ross donated land and a home to care for boys with nowhere else to go. It was called the Y.M.C.A. Boys Home of Iowa.  The name changed to Youth Homes of Mid-America in 1987. JCSD currently has an education facility that is used on campus for education of students that must remain on campus.


1942-1946 Sometime during these years, lightening struck the school chimney and shattered timber, composition roofing, bricks and rock wool insulation that buried the desks. 37 youngsters would have been working.


1945 First edition of yearbook entitled, “The Beaconite”


1946 A contest was held to adopt a school name/mascot.  The football team of 1946 was the first “Dragon” team.  The name was suggested by Adriana Ansley, then a junior and member of the 1947 class.  Adriana graduated from North High School, but a dragon sculpture sits in the trophy case in honor of her.  The dragon as it still appears was on the cover of the 1950 and 51 yearbooks, assume the dragon is the same as the one first used after becoming the Johnston Dragons.


1946 Charles S. Varner hired as superintendent.


1949 Eight acres adjoining the school grounds were purchased for $2200 from B.B. McKibben for athletic field


1949 Due to growth and lack of space, some students attended classes at the barracks at Camp Dodge until 1968.  1950-ten classrooms were added, in 1952 a new gym built to the east of the original building provided two extra classrooms, a large lunch room and a small hot lunch preparation area. In 1956, a separate complex was built were science labs, home economics rooms and shop were added.  In March 1951, a new school bus cost $4,329.24.


1951 New school bus purchased for $4,329.24


1958 An elementary school was built and called Johnston Elementary.  It was the north wing of the current Lawson Elementary prior to the south wing being added in 1968 and entire building being remodeled in 1997 and 2012.


1959 Deborah Heights & Monterey Park areas were attached to the DSM school district.  (Causing the boundary to zig/zag north of the township line (Aurora Ave) to the river)


1962 Jack P. Sims hired as superintendent.

1966 The school district was expanded with attachment of the Jefferson Township School District (Herrold) and name changed to “The Johnston Community Schools”. July 1, 1996, law in effect that all districts without a high school had to become part of a district that had a high school unit and transportation.  Changing name would enable district to have voting privileges on the member at large on county board of education and all available resources – on Sept 1965 ballot.


1968 South wing added to Lawson Elementary


1968 Mr. Asby becomes superintendent


1968 School district purchased building at corner of 62nd and 59th Court.  It was a warehouse and administrative offices.  This building was torn down in 2000.


1969 Louis Friestad hired as superintendent.

1969 First female valedictorian Patty Hanna (according to yearbook)


1974 Last class to graduate from the “old” high school.


1974 High School built at current location with additional rooms added over next five years with additional space added in 1994 and additional space added in 2008


1985 Middle School built at current location and remodeled in 1991


1985 Old schoolhouse (that was located where fire station is now) was demolished


1988 Wallace Elementary was built at current location with an addition in 1991.  Named after Henry Wallace in honor of the founder of Pioneer Hi-Bred. Sept. 11, 1988 – Johnston Elementary name was changed to Lawson Elementary.


1989 School Board increases to seven members (from five)


1990 School district offices move to building west of Wallace Elementary


1990 Dr. K. Richard Sundblad becomes superintendent


1991 New additions to Johnston Middle School and Wallace are completed.


1991 Community Education Department formed.  Partnership between district and City of Johnston.


1992 $8.1 million bond issue passes (84%) for addition to JHS.


1994 Addition of gym and another classroom space completed at JHS.


1995 First female student body president, Meghan Bengard


1995 $8.5 million bond issue passes (78.45%) to build Beaver Creek Elementary


1997 Beaver Creek Elementary built and opens doors


1997 $3.75 million bond issue to remodel Lawson passes (89%)


1999 First musical performed at HS “Everything I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten”


1999 One-cent sales tax for infrastructure passes second time around.


2000 District purchases Pioneer building to become Johnston Administrative Resource Center, housing district-wide staff and departments


2001 Horizon Elementary built and opens doors


2004 Summit Middle School built and opens doors.  This facility includes the first indoor pool for the district.


2004 HS becomes 10-12 building and 9th moves to Middle School with 8th grade.


2005 $36.5 million bond issue passes (82%) to build Timber Ridge Elementary; add on/remodel Johnston High School, purchase land for future school; expand storage, tech, B & G; expand existing elementary facilities.


2006 Tennis facility (restrooms/storage/concessions) built by the tennis courts.


Clay Guthmiller becomes superintendent.


2007 Artificial turf added to the stadium.


2007 Timber Ridge Elementary built and opens doors.  Johnston Middle School had renovation work done that moved the library and cafeteria to where the other used to be.  JMS school administrative wing was added at the southeast main entrance that used to be open walkway.


2008 High School renovation completed that added 16 classrooms, vocal music room, physical education/wellness wing, Athletic Director’s offices, and expanded the cafeteria


2013 Lawson addition completed adding 8 new classrooms and renovation of the kitchen/cafeteria area.


2013 Summit added a second floor to the “Mission” learning center (east wing).


2013 Bond issues passes.  It was to help build new high school.  Other funds from PPEL and One-cent sales tax for total of $125 million.  This funds new high school, renovation of existing HS to 8/9 building, renovating existing 8/9 building to elementary and moving Wallace Elementary to that building and then renovating Wallace to meet future needs.


2014 Work on new high school begins.  The facility will be west of 100th and north of 62nd Ave.


2014 Dr. Corey Lunn becomes superintendent.


2017 May-District takes possession of new HS, Summer-work on HS that becomes 8/9 takes place and renovation begins on MS that will become Wallace Elementary


2018 Previous JMS renovated into Wallace Elementary School and Johnston Early Learning Academy (preschool) opens in the Fall.