Home Features Oswego High School’s past, present and future

Oswego High School’s past, present and future

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Graphic Credit: Adam Torres
Graphic Credit: Adam Torres

Out of all the students here at Oswego High School, I’m sure very little actually think or know about the school’s history. If you asked anyone in this school about OHS’s past, the only information they would be able to give you on a good day is that the senior center was once Traughber Junior High and OHS. It seems like no one truly knows that there was once the Red Brick School and the Old Stone School. The timeline of our very own school’s history is more complex and interesting than we think—so, let’s take it back a few years, pull out those blueprints, and investigate the beginnings of OHS.

1836 – late 1800s: The beginning of education at Oswego

When people come along to a new place and build up the community, they bring their institutions with them. As people came to Oswego, so did a value of education.

“Historically, most of the schools in Oswego were small, rural  – like the little one room schoolhouses that were around different townships,” OHS LRC Director Mr. Drew Mundsinger said. “Each little township had their own school.”

Some of these schools were actually elementary schools, while others were kindergarten through eighth grade. These were the stereotypical schoolhouses with one room, which some people had to go through long and difficult journeys to attend. There is one story of a student who would cross the Fox River by raft each day to get to his school, according to “150 Years on the Fox: the History of Oswego Township Illinois” by Roger Matile.

The first of these one-room schools in Oswego was held in a log building, which was built by French missionaries in 1836 or 1837. Eventually came the Russell School, where one teacher was interestingly a graduate of Oxford University. That man, Professor Stannard, was actually the first teacher there.  Due to changing times, these schools began to be phased out by the end of the 19th century.

1852 – 1950: The Old Stone School, Courthouse and the Red Brick School

Red Brick School
The Red Brick School was a school that combined all grades. It was where the current post office is located and was formed after the Old Stone School burned down. Classes were moved to the Kendall County Courthouse, then that was torn down to make room for the Red Brick School.

In 1852, the Old Stone School opened as the first permanent school in Oswego at streets Monroe and Tyler. Before that, the schools were all held in abandoned buildings, or any building that was available at the time, so having an infrastructure built for the purpose of education was a big step in local history. It was also a graded school, instead of its predecessors, which generally had one class composed of many ages. The Old Stone School was eventually gutted by a fire in 1885 and rendered completely useless, so classes were moved to the courthouse with the high school grades, which were already located there. This was where the present day post office is, and was torn down in 1885 to make room for a new school. This was the Red Brick School, which was opened February of 1886.

1951: The Old YMCA

“All those kids needed to go somewhere.”

It wasn’t until 1951 that Oswego opened its first school exclusively for high school grades. This opened at streets Franklin and Washington, and still stands today as the senior center and former YMCA. As Boulder Hill was being built, there was an influx of population. Even though Boulder Hill was unincorporated at the time, it still fell within the boundaries of School District 308, and “all those kids needed to go somewhere,” Mr. Mundsinger stated.

1964 – Present: The school we know (almost)

OHS after recently being built. Taken from the front of the school on the curb of Route 71.
OHS after recently being built. Taken from the front of the school on the curb of Route 71.

In 1964, the modern Oswego High School was opened. It started much smaller than what it is now, the gym and the hall originally being by the front parking lot. The gym was also used as the auditorium at the time. Over the years, we have had our fair share of additions to the building. The first was in 1990.  A larger cafeteria was needed, as well as a library. At the time, the library was the upstairs hallway without any of the classrooms. This era of expansion was responsible for more classrooms, offices, the LRC, and the auditorium. In 1992, the field house was added. More science and English classes were added in 1998 due to increased enrollment. 2002 brought additions to the front of the building, such as door one and the math and science classrooms.

“Our most recent addition was in 2013. We added the newest wing which included 22 classrooms and a couple of offices, along with new locker rooms,” Assistant Principal Mr. Bill Nunamaker said.

As for modernization, the district has pumped tons of money into making sure Oswego High School is technologically up to date. Even the old science and English classrooms at the front of the building are very modern.

The 21st Century: Questions of expansion

Front of Oswego High School, on the curb of Route 71 by Door One.
Front of Oswego High School, on the curb of Route 71 by Door One.

“People will mention we’ve got to build a third floor, but when you talk about putting a third floor on you have to consider the structural integrity and foundation of the building…in terms of expanding out, that’s going to be a little bit of a challenge,” Mr. Nunamaker added. OHS already has limited parking space and expanding out will only limit that further, as well as keeping the sports fields we need for our large variety of athletic opportunities.

In the 2000s, there was a referendum to build a third high school for School District 308. Mr. Mundsinger was on that committee.

“Everybody was coming to Kendall County,” Mundsinger said.

From 2000 to 2010, Kendall County was actually the fastest-growing county in the United States, according to CNN Money. This population boom resulted in creating a committee, passing a referendum, designing a school, and picking out a location. A new board was elected in 2010, which put these ambitions to rest by instead expanding upon the two existing high schools. The school’s location would have been at one of two locations: Grove Road and Route 126, or on the corner of Plainfield Road and Ridge Road. Much of the anticipated growth was from the direction of Joliet, so it was understandable that the high school would have been built somewhere in that direction.

The future of our school is mostly unknown. It’s hard to tell whether the district will expand on the remaining high schools, or go ahead and build that third one.

“The full capacity [of OHS] is 3,200 , comfortable is 3,000, and we’re at 2,800,” Mr. Nunamaker stated.

But there may be a limit for a different aspect of schools that they cannot solve.

Ms. Colleen Predl, a former student of OHS, is a P.E. and Driver’s Education teacher, a Cross Country and Badminton coach, and she helps run BIONIC. There were many differences between how the school was when she went here, and how it is now. Overall, she says it was much smaller—and it got even more empty when Oswego East opened her sophomore year and OHS was split in half.

“There was much more school spirit back then than there is now.”

She wanted to note that, over the years, more and more people go to sporting events just to hang out with friends and not actually enjoy the game. There are the obvious outliers, such as Crosstown, where it seems like the entire town wants a ticket.

“A huge change from when I was in high school is that there was much more school spirit back then than there is now,” Predl said.

As OHS has expanded, school spirit has diminished. It seems to be the opposite effect most would expect. Our school is no longer the small-town high school Ms. Predl remembers attending, but instead a large suburban community center. And as it continues to expand, school spirit will probably continue to decrease. That is something more space will not solve.

It seems as if the problem of expansion lies in the future, hopefully when the district is financially stable. But if the population does pick up and expand like the mid-2000s, then Oswego will have a significant problem not just with space for more students, but for the amount of passion people have for OHS.

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