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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
You Might Like…
- A History of the Omaha View Neighborhood
- A History of Schools in North Omaha
- A History of the Pleasantview Public Housing Projects
- A History of the Spencer Street Public Housing Projects
- A History of Adams Park
- A History of the Hilltop Public Housing Projects