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Central School to Chehalem Cultural Center: Part One


By Barbara Doyle

This is part one of a multi-part series on the history of Central School, look for new installments in the weeks to come! This and future installments in this series are adapted from Barbara Doyle's book on this topic: From Then 'till Now: Schooling in Newberg, Oregon.


Newberg Oregon was just like many other small towns in late nineteenth century America.  We had a one-room wooden schoolhouse with students that could vary between five and twenty years of age – with just one teacher. Erected in 1881, the building was located at the Northeast corner of Main and Illinois streets. Initially thirteen students attended this ungraded public school. Students progressed individually thru the educational program. Good spelling and penmanship plus competence in simple arithmetic and understanding the words and ideas in Readers [numbered 1-6] was often the equivalent of an eighth grade education. This building could accommodate thirty students.

Courtesy of the George Fox University Archives. https://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/newberg_photos/93/ 


School board members realized the growing community needed a larger building. Local resident N. E. Deskins sold part of his land on Sheridan Street  – the site for the new building. The four-room two-story wooden fifty by sixty foot school opened its front door in October 1889 for one hundred and seventy-five students – spread around just three of those rooms . The building was designed to hold two hundred students. Not much growing room there.

This building was the first version of Central School. But it wasn’t called ‘Central’. It was just called the school – as the only public one in Newberg, it didn’t need a name.

Courtesy of the George Fox University Archives. https://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/newberg_photos/88/


It was more than a new building; it incorporated a new educational
philosophy – a graded school. That meant that a fairly small group of students [ideally 20-25], of the same age, studied the same specific subjects and after a fixed period of time, they collectively advanced to the next grade. That was a very big change for students. This new organizational structure gained national support. Some non-resident Newberg parents began to take their children out of nearby ungraded country schools and enrolled them in Newberg’s new graded school. And they willingly paid a tuition fee for each child.

By early 1892, Newberg residents demanded more classrooms – and they stated their willingness to pay for them.

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