Personal tools

Note: This news item is more than a year old. Browse for more current news.

News from 2022-2023

Posted: March 14, 2023

Happy 100th, Washington Middle School!

School welcomed its first class on Jan. 22, 1923

Washington Middle School

Washington Middle School

The year was 1922. World War I had ended four years earlier, and Albuquerque’s population was exploding, leaving the city’s schools bursting at the seams.

Superintendent John Milne had been grappling with overcrowded schools and had even been forced to commandeer a library building for classroom space. Frustrated by the situation, Milne went to his board in January of that year with an ambitious plan for accommodating the city’s school children.

Included in that proposal were three new campuses, a grade school, and two junior highs. And he wanted the schools built within six months – in time to house students for the fall semester.

With that proposal, Milne laid the foundation for what is now Washington Middle School, which will be celebrating its centennial year at a gathering on March 14.

“The junior high school would house all pupils of the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades,” Milne told board members, according to a contemporaneous story in the Albuquerque Morning Journal. “This arrangement would not only take 300 pupils from the present high school enrollment but would also take the eighth grade out of the library building and the seventh grade out of the central building.”

He noted that those three grades had an enrollment of “750 pupils.”

“This number will no doubt rise to 900 next year so that it would be necessary to have two buildings that would house 600 pupils each,” Milne said.

A month later, the board gave its blessing to the proposal, which included building a two-story brick junior high in the part of Albuquerque known at the time as the lowlands. Specifically, the school was to be built at Washington Park.

The school district moved at a dizzying pace, commissioning architectural plans, issuing a call for construction bids, and awarding a contract for the school at Washington Park. In May of 1922, Hall and Son of Fowler, Colorado, was awarded the contract to build the school at the price of $74,563, although that amount didn’t include heating plants, accessories, plumbing, or electrical work.

Milne declared that the work would be started at once. A month later, the board officially christened it Washington junior high.

Despite the aggressive goal, Washington junior high wasn’t ready by the fall 1922 semester. Instead, it welcomed its inaugural class of students on the Monday after winter break – Jan. 22, 1923. The school had 547 students by September 1923.

So what were those early years at Washington junior high like? The Albuquerque Journal’s archive offers some clues.

The school fielded a basketball and football team and even had an orchestra. And there were “important and lively contests” in debate and spelling against other middle schools in the city. It’s worth noting that Washington middle school students have always been scrappy. In the weeks and months after the school opened its doors, its basketball team “tangled” with the Menaul second team and won. Its football team defeated the North Fourth 6-0, thanks to Guy Dozler, who scored a touchdown. And the school’s eighth graders “downed” Lincoln junior high in the spelling contest.

But it wasn’t all fun and games. Paris Holmes had his bicycle stolen from the school on the morning of May 29, 1923. And some spent the summer of 1923 at Washington junior high being taught by Misses Gloff and Jahn.

Washington Middle School has undergone many changes over the last hundred years and has even been rebuilt a time or two. But the foundation set by Superintendent Milne remains, along with the legacy built by the many students who have walked through its doors.