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19th century 20th century 21st century architecture Black spaces and places historic preservation North 30th schools White flight

A History of Howard Kennedy School

Sitting on top of a hill on the western edge of North Omaha, the Omaha View School was one of the city’s earliest. Rebuilt on a new site in 1908, in 1910 it was renamed, too. Since then the school has had notable alumni, built the surrounding neighborhood up, and changed dramatically. This is a history of the Howard Kennedy Elementary School.

Sitting on top of a hill on the western edge of North Omaha, the Omaha View School was one of the city’s earliest. Rebuilt on a new site in 1908, in 1910 it was renamed, too. Since then the school has had notable alumni, built the surrounding neighborhood up, and changed dramatically. This is a history of the Howard Kennedy Elementary School.

Welcome to Omaha View School

Board of Education Warehouse, 2024 Nicholas Street, North Omaha, Nebraska
This then-and-now comparison graphic shows the Board of Education Warehouse at 2024 Nicholas Street, built in 1911 with bricks from the 1884 Omaha View School at North 32nd and Corby Streets.

Before it was renamed, the Howard Kennedy Elementary School was called the Omaha View School. Opened in 1885, the first school was a ten-room brick building on the corner of North 32nd and Corby Streets. For the first decade of its existence, it was the smallest school in the school district with only 142 students in 1886; other schools averaged from 300 to 900 students.

After parents and community members complained extensively, in 1891 the school district spent $1,000 repairing the school for its continued usage. The next year though, the school was closed in the middle of winter because, according to the superintendent, it couldn’t be heated because the windows were too loose. In 1902, the boundaries for students to be sent to Omaha View School were approximately North 26th on the east to North 36th Street on the west, from Blondo on the south to Pinkney on the north.

Building a New School

This featurette was in the January 31, 1910 Omaha World-Herald. It celebrated the opening of the new Omaha View School, later renamed the Howard Kennedy School.

Calling the old school “dangerous and dilapidated,” in 1908 the city voted to rebuild the Omaha View School with a 16-room building that was identical to the Lothrop School. That year, prolific Omaha architects Fisher and Lawrie were contracted to design the plans for the 16-room school building, and W. H. Parrish won a contract from the district to build the school for $94,000. The building was built at 2906 North 30th Street between Binney and Maple, immediately east of a large open space with a boulevard winding through it. This land would become Adams Park.

Howard Kennedy School, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is a 1939 pic of students in Grades 6B and 7A at Howard Kennedy School.

The school was opened in January 1910, and the old school was demolished soon afterward. That year, the Omaha Public Schools board of education renamed the building for the first superintendent of the district, Howard Kennedy. In addition to that role, he sat on the school board for a decade, and was well-regarded throughout the city. His son was a retired judge and popular figure in Omaha when the school was built.

A 1911 Omaha World-Herald article said the bricks from the original Omaha View School at North 32nd and Corby were used to build the Board of Education Warehouse at 2024 Nicholas Street, which was demolished in 2019.

Becoming Black and White Flight

Howard Kennedy Elementary School, 2906 North 30th Street, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the new addition onto Howard Kennedy School that made it a junior high school in the 1950s.

In September 1919, the lynching of Will Brown led to rioting targeting North Omaha. Whites fled from many of the neighborhoods in the areas nearest to downtown, including the Omaha View neighborhood. This was the first wave of white flight in Omaha. By the 1920s, Howard Kennedy School taught predominantly African American students, and became one of Omaha Public Schools segregated Black schools.

The school served grades one through eight for several years, and added kindergarten around 1910. In 1956, a junior high program was established at the school for the seventh and eighth grades.

Howard Kennedy School, North Omaha, Nebraska
In 1957, the school district built an addition onto Howard Kennedy School to house increasing numbers of students attending.

In 1957, the school district built an addition onto Howard Kennedy School to house increasing numbers of students attending. The new addition doubled the number of classrooms in the school and added a new gymnasium/cafeteria. For the first time in several years, each class had its own room.

In Modern Times

Howard Kennedy Elementary School, 2906 North 30th Street, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is a modern image of Howard Kennedy School on North 30th and Binney Street.

The school underwent several renovations over the next several decades, and was rededicated after a major renovation in 2004.

Howard Kennedy became part of the 75 North wraparound community redevelopment project in 2014. As part of that effort, the school received a variety of support from the organization. Over the course of several years, community involvement in the school has helped improve the school culture and transform academic achievement.

The future of Howard Kennedy Elementary School is still being written, but provides a role model for the rest of North Omaha’s schools, too.


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Elsewhere Online

1974 Omaha Star article on Howard Kennedy School
This is a 1974 feature on Howard Kennedy School from the Omaha Star newspaper.
Howard Kennedy School, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is from a 1958 article about the need for afterschool and summer programs at the Howard Kennedy School.

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