The history of high school in Columbia, Missouri (1897-2004)

High school in Columbia began in the 1880s, and by 1889, Columbia established a two-year high school. The course of study was adjusted to three years to meet state standards in 1895, and to four years in 1896. Extracurricular activities naturally evolved. A literary society was formed in 1898, and choral union, orchestra, and debate team were established the following year. Sports teams were already present, although the district did not provide paid coaches.

Soon overcrowding at Columbia High School became a concern. In 1909, the community approved the demolition of the old school at 9th and Rogers and the building of a new high school on that site. The new structure had the district's first gymnasium and physical education credit was added to graduation requirements. A coach was employed to work with the athletic teams and an art/music teacher was hired. The first edition of the yearbook, the Cresset, was published in 1912. Commercial studies, teacher training, home economics, and mechanical drawing courses were added to the curriculum in 1913.

World War I brought changes to Columbia High School, although much of the curriculum remained the same until Hickman was built. During World War I, the German Club was removed from the list of extracurricular activities in 1915 and a Current Events Club was established in 1918. In 1917, students over 14 years of age were excused from attending school to be farm workers as part of the war effort.

Following the war, Columbia continued to grow. In 1925, the community decided to build a new high school, this time on the country property of the David H. Hickman estate. Construction began soon after, and Hickman High School opened in 1927. Students in the high school manual trades program built some of the furniture used to furnish the new school.

The 1930s brought the Depression to Columbia, and the school district felt the economic pinch. For the first time, the district operated with a deficit; however, the high school building was expanded, thanks to low interest loans and the Works Progress administration. While the district's special education program was eliminated, Hickman's first counselor arrived on the scene. On-the-job training and employment for credit were added to the curriculum, and Hickman's new verse speaking choir performed throughout the state. Kewpie wrestlers garnered three state championships during the decade. In 1938, Hickman's first marching band performed, and the Student Council financed the purchase of the band's first uniforms in the early 1940s. Hickman's first operetta, 1944's Tune In, began an annual tradition.

During World War II, curricular changes reflected the times; courses in international relations, aeronautics, and home nursing were added. Hickman participated in a massive fund-raising drive for the war effort and collected salvage items. Driver's education was offered for the first time in 1948, and the tradition of requiring sophomores to wear beanies was restored.

The end of segregation in school system occurred in the late 1950s as well as continued expansion of facilities. High school special education and adult classes were initiated in 1955. Vocational classrooms, laboratories, and the swimming pool were built in 1956, doubling Hickman's classroom space. Hickman's faculty voted in 1952 to adopt competitive letter grading (E,S,M,I,F) in place of the previous Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading system.

In 1960, Hickman established an honors program to add rigor to its academics. The green and white sophomore beanies were worn for the last time in 1961.David Wheeler was named Hickman's first Presidential Scholar in 1964, the inaugural year of the national recognition program. The Kewpies finally beat the Jefferson City Jays in football in 1966, and four state championships in three different sports proved Hickman an intimidating opponent.

The 1970s brought district growth and expanded opportunities for Hickman girls. Overcrowding, seemingly a constant issue in Columbia's schools, became a concern, and a second high school, Rock Bridge, opened in 1973. Hickman's first female Student Government president was elected that same year. By the mid-1970s, Hickman offered competitive women's teams in tennis, basketball, golf, swimming, track, and volleyball.

National recognition came to Hickman in the 1980s, as Hickman was chosen to receive the Excellence in Education (Blue Ribbon) Award in 1984-85. President Ronald Reagan visited Hickman in 1987, and two students (Missouri's quota) were tapped as Presidential Scholars in 1988.

The 1990s were good years for the Kewpies. Hickman was once again nationally recognized as a Blue Ribbon school in the 1994-96 competition, and four additional Presidential Scholars were named, bringing Hickman's total to 12, more than any public school in Missouri. Curriculum has taken new directions; including interdisciplinary classes, portfolio grading, and infusion of technology. Two computer labs were developed and opportunities for true-to-life experiences were expanded, including the Columbia Aeronautics Space Association (CASA) project, and On-line Information classes. The strong, diverse athletic tradition continues. Within this decade, Hickman won six state championships in baseball, women's swimming, men's track, men's cross country, and men's tennis. Fine arts and music programs also produced many state award winners.
The tradition of excellence in academics, athletics and the arts continues into the new millennium. Hickman's thirteenth Presidential Scholar was named in 2000, and the fourteenth in 2001. Thanks to passage of two bond issues in 1999 and 2000, a master plan for revitalizing the Hickman campus has been developed, and renovation of the Hickman Media Center and construction of concession and weight room are now complete. Additional building renovation and construction of an all-purpose track begin this summer. New curricular initiatives such as the Success Center and the A+ Schools Program support learning for all Hickman students and are integral to recent reduction in the dropout rate. The Class of 2002, the 106th graduating class from high school in Columbia, is ready to face new challenges. These Kewpies will excel in industry and in the corporate world, as Hickman's graduates are prepared both for life in this decade and in the future.
From the archives of David Henry Hickman High School

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