History of Payette School District
Prepared by the 5th and 6th Grade
Honors Class of 1988
McCain Middle School
The Payette School District was organized in 1885. At that time Payette was a part of Ada County. The first school was small, had one room and only one story. This school was used until 1890.
In 1890 Central School was built. Central School was located in what is now Central Park. It was a two-story red brick building with three classrooms. There were two classrooms on the first floor and one large classroom on the second floor. The first floor was used for grades one through eight, and the second floor was the high school floor.
There were four teachers in the school district at that time. In 1899 four more classrooms and a large hallway were added. As the student population increased it became necessary to hire more teachers. The number of teachers now increased to eight. In 1905 they added an entire new high school wing because the population once again increased.
During this time the students had to buy their own books and supplies. They also had to bring their own lunches because there was no kitchen or cafeteria at the school. The school district had no busses to transport students. As a result, all students had to either walk, ride horses or provide their own transportation.
The school had no indoor restrooms, drinking fountains, lockers, or gymnasium. All school sponsored sports were played at the Y.M.C.A. which was located across the street from the school.
It was common at that time to separate the girls from the boys when they were not in the classroom. Central School did this by building a high wooden fence and having separate building entrances for them. Central School had grades one through twelve from 1890 until 1921. In 1921 Central School caught fire and burned to the ground.
In 1921 a new junior high/high school was built. The new school was located on Center Avenue. It was a three-story red brick building which was built for students in the seventh through twelfth grades. Students from the entire city of Payette in these grades attended this school. Four classrooms were added onto the school in 1910. This made a total of eight classrooms and grades one through eight were taught there. When they added onto the school the restrooms were built in the basement. This school was used from 1906 to 1948.
Before World War I, married women were not employed as teachers. When World War I started men were drafted to fight the war and there was a shortage of men teachers. During the course of the war the public realized that married women were as good or better then men and single women, so they continued to employ married women as teachers.
The new Westside School was built in 1948. It was located south of the old Westside School and faced Fifth Street. It was built of brown brick and had six classrooms. The school had grades one through six. When this school was built the seventh and eighth graders had to travel across town to the junior high school. Shortly after the new school was completed the old school was torn down.
The new school had a kitchen and served hot lunch to students. They had a half-day principal who also taught sixth grade during the second half of the day. The school had no library and the books were kept in the classrooms. In 1962 construction began and six more classrooms and a lunchroom were added onto the school. During this period of construction they had to stop serving hot lunch and students had to either bring their own lunch or go home to eat. Milk was still made available for those students who brought their own lunch. After construction was completed the office was made to include a library. Later, when space became available, one classroom was converted to a library. In addition to this the three fourth grade classes moved into the building from the annex which was behind the school.
In 1969 the Payette School District wanted to mix the students from the east and west sides of town. This is when Westside School changed and sent the first through third grades to the Eastside School and had only fourth through sixth grades at the Westside School. In 1984 the grade levels changed once more. This time the school included the third grade and the sixth graders were sent to the middle school. That is how Westside School is organized today.
In 1986 a small tornado lifted a large portion of the roof off of the school and flipped it out into Fifth Street. This initiated a large remodel project with a new pitched roof over the entire school and considerable interior renovation to compensate for water damage.
As the school population increased there was a need for a place to hold school activities such as basketball games and school plays. In 1937 a gymnasium was added on the school. In 1956 there was a fire on the third floor of the school. The fire caused structural damage to the building and made it unsafe for students. As a result of this, the third story of the building was removed.
In 1962 a new one-story junior high school building was built on 6th Avenue. Grades seven through eight moved to the new building and grades nine through twelve stayed at the school on Center Avenue. The junior high school remained the same until 1972 when an auditorium, gymnasium, library and six classrooms were added.
In 1974 the junior high and high school switched locations. Once again, the school was located in the same building that it had been in before 1962.
In 1984 the sixth graders moved form Westside School to the junior high. In 1986 the junior high officially became a middle school. Until this time the school had been called Payette Junior High School. In January of 1988 the name of the school changed again and Payette Junior High School became Warren E. McCain Middle School. Warren McCain was honored because of his generous scholarships to the College of Idaho for Payette High School graduates each year. Mr. McCain also donated a "State of the Art" computer room to the middle school and provided 2/3 of the funds for new hallway lockers and half the funds for middle school tennis courts.
The original Westside School was built in 1905. At that time Payette was a part of Canyon County. The school faced Fifth Street and was located north of where the school is located now. It was built on the west side of the railroad tracks for children who lived on the west side of town.
The school had four classrooms and four grades. It was two stories high and was built of red brick. It had wooden floors and wooden paneled walls. The coal furnace, which was used for heat, was located in the basement. The heating system was not sufficient, and during the winter the teachers often took the students into the basement to teach. The principal's office was located on the second floor. The school did not have a plumbing system and out houses were located behind the school. The classrooms had very high ceilings and there were twenty steps from the first to the second floor. The trees that surrounded the school were planted on Arbor Day in 1909.
Eastside Primary School was built in 1926 as an elementary school for the east side of town. It currently houses primary grade Kindergarten through second grade with students utilizing the McCain Middle School lunch room and Gymnasium. It will likely be recommended a new Eastside Primary School be built at the opposite end of the 15 acre site in 1990 with the current Eastside building possibly being utilized as storage, office space, and special education classrooms.
Payette is the host of the SRV Special Services Co-Op comprised of Weiser, Fruitland, and New Plymouth School Districts. A new special education vo-tech building was built in 1983 with federal funding to house a portion of the program and in 1986 we started a night alternative school for drop-outs and potential drop-outs ages 16 and over. This program is currently located in the shop building behind the district office.
The current Payette High School was built in 1962 as a two grade junior high. It was converted to a high school in 1974 with the addition of an unique "Dome" gymnasium, spacious auditorium, library and six classrooms. In 1988 further additions of interior hallways and foyer, three science labs, home ecomonics, art, music rooms, agricultural classroom and shop and offices have created a "State of the Arts" high school and focal point for the community that is highly visible on the North-South Highway 95.
Payette High School is very fortunate to have such illustrious graduates as U.S. Senator, James McClure; Hall of Fame Baseball Player, Harmon Killebrew and Albertson's Chief Executive Officer, Warren E. McCain.
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