5608 Merle Hay Road · Johnston, Iowa 50131 · 515-278-0470

History of JCSD


On March 18, 1914 a petition by local residents to consolidate parts of Webster and Jefferson townships into a consolidated school was submitted with a March 28, 1914 election date.  The results were 75 votes Yes, 37 votes No, 6 ballots were spoiled. 

April 13, 1914, the first meeting of the board of directors-J.F. Grace (President), J.M. Lansely, F. Roenfield, Bern Snider, R.A. Wilson was held and a new district called “The Independent Consolidated School District of Webster and Jefferson Townships of Polk County Iowa” was formed.

Rural schools that were brought together by this consolidation where:

•  Valley Independent (located east of current Lawson Elementary along NW Beaver Drive and 60th Ave.)
•  Friars Grade School (located one quarter mile west of the present high school along 62nd Ave.)
•  Ridgedale Grade School (located across from Hyperion Golf and Country Club)
•  Woodlawn Independent (along Beaver Drive in Des Moines section of district)
•  McDivitt School (70th and Meredith)

A bond referendum was passed after a second attempt in the amount of $15,000 for the purpose of constructing a schoolhouse and to purchase the site for a building.


A new K-8 building was built on land that is west of where the fire station now sits on 62nd Avenue (east end of the current middle school area) and housed 100 students.

In January a petition was circulated to expand the territory of the school district and it was voted down.  In March the petition was tried again and it passed.  There were 229 votes, 127 in favor and 102 against which passed on March 26, 1917 and a new board began on April 13, 1917.

The district was then “the Consolidated Independent School District of Johnston, Iowa.

Martin Z. Albers was the first superintendent hired at $100/month.  He had served as the principal of the building the previous two years.

9th grade was added to the K-8 building.

The school became a K-12 building with an addition made to the building (tenth grade was added in 1918, eleventh in 1919).  This newly accredited school received the first State and Federal aid totaling about $1800.  Cost per pupil was estimate to be $9.64.  Six horse drawn buses carried the students to school each day.

Taxpayers passed a $35,000 bond referendum for an addition to the school.

A 12 foot Studebaker school wagon (not motorized vehicle) equipped with brakes and lamps was purchased for $305.  In 1951 a new bus cost $4329.24. In 2013 a new bus cost $83,589.

The first high school graduation was held on May 14 and the school was certified as an accredited high school.

First graduates were Elmer Betz, Harry Betz, Greta Ivers, Nellie Otto, Agnes Kuefner, Marie Wilson.

There were 238 K-12 students in the district that year.

Mrs. C.C. Waterbury was the first woman elected to the school board.

For many years, the yearbook was called the “Beaconite” and the beacon symbol was often on the graduation diploma and other school items.

School colors changed to purple and gold from blue and gold.

Mr. Hobart A. Ross donated land and a home to care for boys with nowhere else to go. It was called the Y.M.C.A. Boys Home of Iowa.  The name changed to Youth Homes of Mid-America in 1987.   JCSD currently has an education facility that is used on campus for education of students that must remain on campus.

A contest was held to adopt a school name/mascot.  The football team of 1946 was the first “Dragon” team.  The name was suggested by Adriana Ansley, then a junior at JHS (she graduated from North High).

Due to growth and lack of space, some students attended classes at the barracks at Camp Dodge on and off until 1968.

Over the next few years the following additions were made to the school: 1950-ten classrooms were added, in 1952 a new gym built to the east of the original building provided two extra classrooms, a large lunch room and a small hot lunch preparation area. In 1956 a separate complex was built where science labs, home economics rooms and shop were added.

An elementary school was built at 5450 NW 62nd Aveneue and called Johnston Elementary.  It was the north wing of the current Lawson Elementary prior to the south wing being added in 1968 and the entire building being remodeled in 1997 and 2012.  In 1988, the elementary was named Lawson Elementary after John F. Lawson, a well-known settler .

Debra Heights & Monterey Park areas were attached to the DSM school district which caused the boundary to deviate from the township line that was the original boundary in the Des Moines area of the school district.

The school district was expanded with attachment of the Jefferson Township School District (which included the Herrold School).

The district’s name was changed to “The Johnston Community Schools”.  Changing name would also enable the district to have voting privileges on the member at large on the county board of education and all available resources.

July 1, 1966 a law went into effect that all districts without a high school had to become part of a district that had a HS unit and transportation.    The northern boundaries of the current district were the boundaries of the Jefferson Township School District when it merged with the Johnston School District.

The school district purchased the building at the corner of 62nd and 59th Court.  It was a warehouse and administrative offices.  This building was torn down in 2000.

The high school was built at the current location of 6501 NW 62nd Avenue with additional rooms added over the next five years and additional space again added in 1994 and in 2008.

The class of 1974 was the last class of seniors to graduate from the “old” original high school.


The Johnston Middle School built at the current location of 6207 NW 62nd Avenue and remodeled in 1991 and 2007.

The original schoolhouse (that was located where fire station is now) was demolished.

Wallace Elementary was built at current location of 6510 NW 62nd Avenue, with an addition in 1991.  The school was named after Henry Wallace in honor of the founder of Pioneer Hi-Bred. District student enrollment was 1665.  When this second elementary school was opened and named, the Johnston Elementary (first elementary built) was renamed Lawson Elementary.

The school board increases from five to seven members.  District student enrollment was 1878.

School district offices move to a building west of Wallace Elementary.  It is referred to as the Annex and/or Wallace West.  Student enrollment was 2126.

An $8.1 million bond issue passes (84%) for addition to JHS.

An $8.5 million bond issue passes (78.45%) to build Beaver Creek Elementary.  Student enrollment for the district was 3063.

Beaver Creek Elementary built and opens doors to students.  The location is 8701 Lyndhurst Dr.

A $3.75 million bond issue to remodel Lawson passes (89%).  District student enrollment was 3503.

One-cent sales tax for infrastructure passes second time around.

District purchases building from Pioneer Hi-Bred to become the Johnston Administrative Resource Center, housing district-wide staff and departments.  The location is the northwest corner of Merle Hay Road and Pioneer Parkway.  District student enrollment was 3986.

Horizon Elementary is built and opens doors to students.  The location is 5905 NW 100th.

Summit Middle School was built at 9500 Windsor Parkway and opens doors to 6th and 7th grade students.  This facility includes the first indoor pool for the district.

The high school becomes a 10-12 grade building and 9th grade moves to the Johnston Middle School with 8th grade.

A $36.5 million bond issue passes (82%) to build Timber Ridge Elementary; add on/remodel JHS; purchase land; expand storage, tech, B & G; and expand existing elementary facilities. District student enrollment was 4903.

Timber Ridge Elementary is built at 7370 NW 54th Ave. and opens doors to students.

Artificial turf was added to the stadium.  The “fire” J becomes a symbol of Johnston athletics.

A $41 million bond issues passes (66%).  It will help build a new high school.  Other funds are to come from PPEL and the one-cent sales tax for total project cost of $125 million.  This funds new high school, renovation of existing HS to 8/9 building, renovating existing 8/9 building to elementary and moving Wallace Elementary to that building and then renovating Wallace to meet future needs.

The district celebrates 100 years!
Ground is broken for new high school just north of 62nd on 100th Street.

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