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About The School  

The History of Kemper Elementary School

As the Cortez school population swelled after World War II, and new families arrived aspart of an oil and gas drilling boom, the community built three new elementary schools; Downey, Manaugh, and then Kemper. Civic leaders provided a strong case for the need for the Kemper School in 1957. A January 10, 1957 front page article in the Montezuma Valley Journal noted that elementary school classes were being held in the basement of the Methodist Church, the Calkins School and two houses, and that the auditorium had been sectioned off in Downey Elementary to create more classrooms--all because of overcrowding. The article also stated that the Manaugh School Cafeteria, which had a capacity of 400, was feeding 550 children every day. A bond election to raise $450,000 for the school was held on February 18, 1957, and approved 388 to 88.

The School District had already acquired the land. Montezuma County Assessor and Tax Records show the land transfer in 1954. In order to save money on design fees, the design for Manaugh School was slightly altered by the architect, William F. Andres, and adapted to the new Kemper School. A building permit was issued on June 4 and local building contractor H.C. Flaugh began work. Although the school was only partially completed, the first classrooms were in use in January, 1958, when the schools all re-opened after the Christmas holiday. The first Principal was George Shelhamer and Sue Jones was the head teacher. When the completed school opened for the fall term, the newspaper reported that there were 410 students attending Kemper Elementary. The school was named for Ed Kemper, a teacher in Montezuma County for 38 years, who passed away in 1955.

 Overcrowding prompted an addition and remodel to the school in 1987. A bond for $1 million was approved by voters on February 24, 1987 to construct six new classrooms and a library and music room, and to remodel the building. The architects, Anderson, Mason and Dale, of Denver designed the remodel and addition, which was constructed by the Southwest Construction Company. The September 14, 1987 issue of the Cortez Sentinel reported that there were 388 students at Kemper. (John D. Anderson, the principal of the architectural firm, received his architecture degrees from Harvard University (1949, 1952) before founding the Anderson, Mason and Dale Architectural firm in 1976. Since 1988, Anderson has been the Chairman of the Lower Downtown District Review and is a former President of American Institute of Architects (AIA).)

(Sources of information: County Assessors and Clerk Data, Montezuma Valley Journal, Cortez Sentinel, website for Anderson, Mason and Dale.)


620 E Montezuma Ave
Cortez, Colorado 81321
(970) 565-3737

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