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A Brief History Of Omak Schools

School District No. 19, embracing Robinson Flat, Cherokee Strip, Pogue Prairie and what is now the city of Omak, was formed about 1905. The first district school house was built near the W.R. Jacquish home on Pogue Prairie and was attended by students of Mrs. Reuben Robinson’s private school held in her home near the present Monse. The total enrollment was about forty, and the little one-room school served the whole district until the fall of 1907 when Omak was platted.

Among the first teachers and directors were Glen Young, John M. James, Miss Eels, and Mrs. Emmett George. The first directors who shaped the future of the schools were J.H. Sprowl, W.R. Jacquish, Ben Ross (founder of Omak), R.S. Robinson, R.L. Wright, and Burris Hendrick.

Feeling that the distance to Pogue Prairie was too great for those living in the embryonic town, a subscription school was organized in the fall of 1907 with Miss Ethel Reed serving as teacher. About 10 students came the first day to the little 12x16 shack (later Fritz residence site).

By the spring of 1908, however, the school was removed to another building (later James Headlee property) and the students, now increased to 20, were taught by Miss Lela Westfall, who was engaged by the district. As the little town began to grow, so did the student body. From the year 1908 the history of the development of Omak Schools is a story of the struggle to house the ever-growing school population.

In the fall of 1908, the school was moved to a room in Stoddard Hall, located on the site of the present Omak Post Office. Two teachers were engaged, one of whom was Omak’s first school superintendent, Ira Graffis. Omak’s first high school students, Ogden Nash and Albert Wotring, were taught ninth grade subjects.

For 1909-10, both the north and south halves of the Stoddard building were used, and four students were enrolled in the high school. Dooley P. Wheeler was superintendent.

1910 - The first half of the Central School was built on land donated by Ben Ross (currently the parking lot of Wenatchee Valley College-Omak). Of the total enrollment of 125, 25 were in high school.

1911 - The other half of the Central School was finished and the old Pogue Prairie School was abandoned.

1912 - The very first high school graduating class consisted of sisters Voy and Beryl Bailey.

1920 - New superintendent L.O. Swenson begins his nine-year tenure.

1921-22 - The High School is constructed on the same site as the current high school.

1928 - The Stevens School was constructed to meet the needs of the growing population on the land that is currently used for the middle school.

George Ladd photo shows the new Stevens Elementary School

1929 - Swenson ends his time as superintendent and Victor Morgan takes over until 1941.

1938 - The Junior High School was dedicated in January and later named for Enos E. Copple, board member who served the district for 24 years. The building provided 11 new classrooms, which replaced the 9 classrooms in the Central School, which was abandoned.

1939 - The County Clerk reports that enrollment in the schools is at 1,052 – 775 through eighth grade and 244 in the high school.

1940 - A second unit was added to the Stevens School building and the ninth grade was removed from the Senior High School to the Junior High School.

1941 - An addition was made to the Senior High School building, to enable the school to enlarge its shop and manual training classes. The district had 38 instructors, two of whom taught in East Omak and one at Disautel. The total enrollment was about 1,000 students, of whom 160 were in senior high. Board members were Gerald Stage, Frank Emert and J.W. Doxey.

1948 - Emert building completed. Board members at the time were Frank Emert (building’s namesake), Ray Carlton, Earl Nansen and Robert Corson. The Emert building was built to house the primary grades and kindergarten.

1954 - The school had about 1,200 students. Two new grade schools are in the works (now known as North and East), along with a multipurpose room on the Stevens building (current location of multipurpose room) and a new high school unit for science, music, home economics and industrial arts (currently known as B Wing).

1955 - Construction complete for North and East, as well as Stevens' Gym addition, and dedication held (program preserved in school archives by PTA members). School board members at the time were Dr. Fred Baines, Robert Lucas, Ralph Mundinger, David Brown and Waldo Glover. The Stevens gymnasium was also completed at a cost of $82,337.

1957 - The first section of the new high school was completed at a cost of $193,000.

1959 - The second section of the new high school was completed at a cost of $158,880. School board members at the time were Dr. Fred Baines, David P. Brown, Riley Fewkes and Ralph Mundinger. 

1961 - District has 66 full- or part-time instructors and 25 full- or part-time non-certified staff. The enrollment was: 698 elementary; 358 junior high; 268 senior high.

1968 - The Vocational-Technical Center added near Copple Junior High School, including a wood shop, metal shop, art room and auto shop.

1970 - Stevens Elementary School destroyed by fire.

1972 - The "rounds" of East and North Elementary are added to make up for the space lost in the Stevens fire. North serves grades 1-6, East serves grades 1-5.

1975 - Copple Junior High destroyed by fire, along with most new vocational-technical areas.

1978 - New Omak Junior-Senior High School is opened, connecting to the existing Senior High School, replacing the Copple Junior High. Less than $1 million bonded to replace the school since insurance and state funds covered most of the cost. About this time, the District Office is moved to the empty area left by the Stevens fire.

1982 - Emert Elementary school remodeled to be a middle school. The Junior-Senior High School becomes the Senior High School.

1988 - North Elementary School destroyed by arson fire.

c. 1990 - In about one year's time, the new North School is rebuilt, a gym expansion is added to East Elementary, the District Office is moved to its current site at Bartlett, and the Omak PAC is built and opened. Less than $1 million is needed for a bond to build North, since the state and insurance, as well as community donations, funded it and the other projects.

2009 - The Omak High School remodel is completed and the new CTE building is opened. The work required a $9 million bond, with the state matching more than twice the bonded amount.

Omak had several long-serving board members: Enos E. Copple, 24 years; Martin Miller; C.E. Weatherstone; Frank Emert (after whom a new school was named).

Sources: 1962 Omak School Teacher Handbook; Okanogan County Historical Society

Compiled June 2016; Sheila Corson, Former Communications Officer, Omak School District

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