State Historic Preservation Office
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Timeline of Wyoming School History

Horse Drawn Wagon Used as a School Bus
Sundance School (1923), Crook Co.
Photo: Wyoming State Archives, Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources

1852 First recorded school in Wyoming established for the children of officers and traders at Fort Laramie.
1860 Judge W. A. Carter established Wyoming’s second school, a private school, at Fort Bridger.
1868 Wyoming Territory created on July 25, 1868 by the Organic Act, which stipulated that sections 16 and 36 in each township be reserved for purposes of public schools. The first “public” school – available to all students but paid for by subscription - opened in Cheyenne.
1869 Subscription public schools opened in Laramie and Rawlins. First Territorial Assembly passed school code creating system for public schools. Office of county superintendent of schools was created, and the territorial auditor was designated "ex officio" superintendent of public instruction.
1870 Subscription public school opened in Evanston, and private school opened at South Pass. Census listed four public schools and five day and boarding schools in the territory.
1871 Office of state superintendent abolished; county superintendents reported directly to governor. First report on public education made to legislature. First school for Indian children opened by the Episcopal Church in an old log building at Fort Washakie on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
1873 New school code adopted by state legislature, with state librarian new ex-officio superintendent of public instruction. Law also provided for compulsory education for all children ages seven through sixteen and annual teachers' institutes. Territory reported total of eight public schools and three private schools.
1875 First public high school in Wyoming organized in Cheyenne.
1878 East Side School opened in Laramie. The two-story brick school is now the oldest public school in the state. Territory reported 2,090 students taught by forty-nine teachers in twenty-five school buildings.
1879 Fort school established at Fort Washakie.
1884 School building for Shoshone and Arapaho students, a one-and-a-half-story adobe building, constructed on Trout Creek southwest of Fort Washakie on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
1886 University of Wyoming founded in Laramie. Legislature appropriated $50,000 for construction of University Hall (now Old Main). First (private) kindergarten established in Cheyenne.
1887 Forty-two students, ages 12 to 23, entered the University of Wyoming, which had a faculty of seven professors. A Preparatory School was founded at the university to provide secondary education for students not served by a high school in their home area. The Roberts Episcopal Mission Boarding School for Shoshone Girls was established on the Wind River Reservation.
1888 The Sisters of Charity from Leavenworth, Kansas arrived to start an Indian boarding school in their convent at St. Stephens on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The school was run by the Catholic Church until 1975.
1890 Wyoming became a state. State constitution required the office of state superintendent of public instruction to be one of five statewide elected positions.
1891 Wyoming State Teachers' Association established. It was reorganized in 1904 and still exists as the Wyoming Education Association.
1895 Five high schools in the state were listed as being accredited by the University of Wyoming: Buffalo, Cheyenne, Evanston, Rawlins and Sundance. Legislature provided for establishment and financing of public kindergartens.
1899 State Board of Examiners created and charged with preparing uniform examinations for teacher certification.
1900 High schools had been established in every county in the state.
1901 Legislature provided for free textbooks in all public schools. Uinta County erected twenty new rural school houses, fourteen of them frame buildings.
1905 Statewide, 18,902 students attended 716 schools, taught by 797 teachers.
1910 Statewide, 24,584 students attended 1,004 schools, taught by 1,109 teachers. Work began on a new school for Arapaho children at St. Michael’s Mission.
1911 Legislature mandated the establishment of the Wyoming Industrial Institute (now Wyoming Boys’ School) in Worland for delinquent boys. Institute opened in 1915.
1912 “State School for Defectives” (now Wyoming Life Resource Center) opened in Lander.
1913 12th Legislature provided for the creation of School District Boundary Boards and a fairer distribution of the county tax to rural districts; made it compulsory for all teachers to attend the County Teachers' Institute; and required the state superintendent of public instruction to prepare a course of study for the state with the county superintendents responsible for seeing that all schools used it.
1914 Park County reported that five wagons were being used to transport 125 pupils to a consolidated school in Powell.
1915 School Code Committee established by legislature to study school conditions and recommend legislation. The Department of Public Instruction published Building Suggestions for Rural and Village Schools and a Department of Rural Education was established at the University of Wyoming to train teachers for better rural schools. Classes were established in Rock Springs, Kemmerer, Superior, Cheyenne and Sunrise for foreigners wanting to become U.S. citizens.
1916 Newspapers throughout the U.S. gave prominence to the "Wyoming Plan" high school military training program. U.S. Bureau of Education completed the Educational Survey of Wyoming that reported the state’s lack of standards, inadequacy of school laws, and certain constitutional limitations.
1917 New State Department of Education and non-partisan Board of Education established by the legislature. Passage of the Smith-Hughes Act provided federal funds for vocational education; a Department of Vocational Education was established within the State Department of Education, and Lander began construction of the state’s first vocational high school. The UW College of Education built a Rural Demonstration School on the Laramie campus to train teachers for rural schools.
1918 "Better Schools Conference" held in Laramie, resulting in standardization guidelines for rural schools. 276 teachers enrolled in summer school program offered by University of Wyoming’s College of Education. State superintendent of public instruction directed war work in the schools, including Food Conservation, War Savings, Liberty Bonds and Junior Red Cross work.
1919 Rural school standardization program created; Royal Valley School in Niobrara County was the first school to achieve the “Standard” designation. State reported a serious shortage of teachers with 227 schools without teachers by Oct. 1, 1919. Division of Special Education created, and Director of Special Classes hired. State Department of Education began publication of the monthly Wyoming Educational Bulletin.
1920 Twenty schools met the requirements and received the yellow and brown shield inscribed with the words "Standard School." Establishment of the Oil Royalties Fund by the U.S. Congress provided a return of 37.5% to the state, half of which went to public schools. Legislature began effort to increase high school enrollment by mandating that school districts without a high school pay for their students to attend high school in another district.
1921 Legislature passed a Consolidation Law and provided for Americanization education. The first statewide record of school bus transportation showed 159 bus routes transporting 2,118 children. Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Division was established to provide educational help to handicapped youth and adults.
1922 State Board of Education adopted first accreditation standards for high schools, and 38 schools were accredited. Sixty-four rural schools were classified as Standard Schools. University of Wyoming adopted its first campus plan which established a quadrangle of buildings on the perimeter of an open space, later known as Prexy’s Pasture.
1923 Legislature established the Girls’ Industrial Institute (later Wyoming Girls’ School) as a school for delinquent girls. The school opened in Sheridan in 1925.
1924 Passage of the Snyder Act of 1924 required the Office of Indian Affairs to reorganize all its day schools and smaller reservation boarding schools on a six-grade basis to facilitate the transfer of Indian pupils from the federal schools to the state public schools. The new Natrona County High School opened in Casper.
1925 Division of Rural Education created in the State Department of Education. UW’s Knight Science Camp was established in the Medicine Bow Range west of Laramie. State Board of Education adopted standards for junior high schools. 220 out of the 1,226 rural schools were designated “Standard.”
1928 Wyoming was third in the nation for percentage of students enrolled in high school.
1929 Position of State Supervisor for the Deaf and Blind established within the State Department of Education. McCormick Junior High School, the first school building in Wyoming designed specifically as a junior high school, opened in Cheyenne.
1930 State reported 141 accredited high schools. Forty-two percent of rural children were transported to school.
1931 Standards for "Superior" rural schools were established. Four schools achieve Superior designation.
1932 State Board of Education revised its standards for high schools and junior high schools. Commissioner of Education inspected 127 high schools to determine their classification and to decide which were entitled to state aid from the Government Oil Royalty Fund.
1933 Public Works Administration established as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. In six years, Wyoming received funding for 29 educational facilities projects.
1934 Wyoming reported a total of 385 school districts. There were 1,033 rural schools--934 one-room schools, 349 “Standard Schools” and 4 “Superior Schools.”
1935 Works Progress Administration (WPA) established as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. WPA funded the construction of 21 new schools and school additions in Wyoming, and 92 school reconstruction/improvement projects. Legislature established first equalization fund to help poorer districts provide adequate education.
1936 Students enrolled in vocational agriculture programs performed 167 services for farmers and 125 services for communities. The Liberal Arts (now Arts and Sciences) Building at the University of Wyoming was completed with help from a loan from the PWA.
1938 First “Wyoming Trade School,” an all-day trade school organized by the University of Wyoming's Engineering Department, opened in Laramie.
1939 The Wyoming Union on the UW campus was completed by WPA workers aided by UW students.
1940 Congress provided a grant to the State Department of Education to fund “National Defense Training in the Trade and Industrial Field.”
1941 “Victory Corps Program” launched to train out of school rural youth for the defense industry. By 1944 this program was known as the “Food Production War Training” program and had expanded to courses focusing on repair of farm equipment and commodity production.
1942 Schools for Japanese youth internees opened in six-room barracks buildings at Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Park County.
1943 High school enrollment dropped to its lowest level since 1930, as young people left school to work or join the armed forces. UW enrollment dropped to 662 from a pre-war high of 2,110.
1945 Future Homemakers of America clubs established for high school homemaking pupils.
1946 National School Lunch Act passed by Congress to ensure all students received at least one nutritious meal per day.
1947 Counties were pressured by the legislature to adjust of school district boundaries to create a more equitable tax base; eight such reorganizations are completed by 1948. Wyoming School Lunch Program established in the State Department of Education.
1954 State Department of Education adopted criteria for classifying all types of elementary schools (rural, town and urban. 15 junior high schools are accredited by the state.
1955 In a continued effort to equalize educational opportunity, the State Department of Education established a new School Foundation Fund to distribute funds to needy districts.
1957 Wyoming legislature passed the Emergency School Construction Act (SL 1957, Ch. 95), which allocated $1 million for school construction.
1958 National Defense Education Act (NDEA) provided funding for education to improve American students’ skills in math, science, and engineering at all levels, from elementary school through college. Wyoming school districts are eligible to apply for funding from the program the following year.
1959 Legislature created the Wyoming School for the Deaf in Casper. A school building for deaf students was finally constructed in 1963.
1960 State Department of Education, in cooperation with the University of Wyoming and other partners, completed a comprehensive survey of all schools in the state. Overview Magazine announced that Wyoming was 4th in the nation in school accomplishments, based on 20 points of educational measurement. Eighty one-room schools closed between 1958 and 1960.
1981 East Side School in Laramie was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The threat of demolition rallied citizens who pressed the county to create the Laramie Plains Civic Center in the building.
2002 Legislature created the School Facilities Commission, providing state control of school construction for the first time in the state’s history.
Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources