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page last updated - 04 Oct 2014


Early History

Before Klemme opened its own school, children in this farming village attended other township schools in Ell Township, Iowa.  The first school in the village itself was erected in 1892 and was typical of many schools of that era.  It was a small, one-room building.  All of the students, regardless of age and class level, were in the same classroom.

The first teacher was Miss Maggie Day.  She had seven pupils in her school - Will and Mae Kirkwood, Floy Schafer (some histories call him Floyd), Gertie and Charles Lewis, and Luella and Alma Fiero.  Miss Day was probably not much older than her students.  Teachers in that era were typically paid $20 to $30 per month.

Rural and small-town Iowa schools of that era were organized by districts that encompassed a village or all or part of a township.  In some townships, there were so many children that each section of the township had its own school.

Men of the community served as the school board, hiring the teacher, approving and buying the textbooks, finding the teacher a home to board in if he or she was not from the community, and handling a range of other chores.  Being on a school board in those days meant doing everything from keeping the wood pile or coal cellar stocked to painting the school and its outhouses.

The earliest schools in Klemme only offered education to what we would consider the middle school or junior high school level today.  Anyone wanting a higher education had to go elsewhere, usually to the larger communities of Mason City or Charles City.

The Klemme school enrollment grew quickly and a larger building was soon needed.  In 1895 contractor J.P. Larsen built a handsome four-room, two-story school at a cost of $2,445.  The original one-room school house was then moved to rural Ell Township, where it was used for many more years under the name of Ell Center School.

In 1898 Klemme became its own school district.  The enrollment continued to grow and by 1899 three teachers were needed.

The new school was the pride of Klemme, so it was a sad day when it burned on January 22, 1901.  It was believed that the fire began in the school's furnace area.  One of the older pupils, Emilie Lenz (later Arnold) wrote about the fire in one of her school books.  She described how the students calmly got their "wraps" (coats) from the cloakroom and marched out of the building in an orderly fashion.  Years later, she could still describe the fire in detail.

People of the community quickly rallied to save the building but were unable to do so.  They did, however, manage to get many of the desks, books and other educational materials and furnishings outside.  School was held in the Opera House and above stores for the rest of the school year.  A new building, similar in size and design to its predecessor, was ready for classes in the fall of 1901.

Klemme graduated its first class in 1902.  Classmates were Anna C. Gibbs, Emma Krunkelfeld and Emilie (also spelled Amelia) Lenz.  Classes in the early years completed ten grades, 1-10.  There was no kindergarten.  Anyone wanting more education went to school out of town.  Typically young people wanting to teach or go to college pursued more education.  Klemme did not add eleventh grade until the 1918-19 school year.

1920s and 1930s

The four-room school enrollment grew with the community.  A bond issue to build a new school, at a cost of $45,000, was defeated by the voters in the spring of 1923.  Later the community voted to expand and remodel the existing building.  For $20,000 a gym with a stage, domestic science room, assembly room, manual arts room and new classrooms were built.

A twelfth grade class was added in 1923-24 and the first class to complete 12 years' education in Klemme graduated in the spring 1924.  These graduates were Marie Blank, Clarence Elder, Bertha Johnson, Dolores Koerner and Bernice Tanner.  Bertha Johnson would go on to teach at Klemme Elementary School for many years.  Her family owned part of the land that the 1939 school was built on and she lived in a small house next to the school.  Her students might remember her classroom as the one with the yellow giraffe coat tree.

Soon the expanded school was also full.  In 1938 the voters of Klemme agreed to issue $30,000 in bonds to build a new school.  Another $10,000 came from the school district's operating fund and a federal Public Works Administration (PWA) grant provided $32,715.  Ernest Anderson of Clear Lake was the contractor.  The school was built on land owned by C.A. Larsen and Joe Johnson.


The two-story brick building opened for classes in the fall of 1939, offering kindergarten for the first time.  The first senior class to graduate from the new school was in the spring of 1940.  Newspaper accounts described the school as being one of the most modern and up-to-date in all of Iowa.



The old wooden school, which had stood faithfully since 1901, was torn down.  Its wood was reused to build a new American Legion hall and a new community building, which many might remember as the community hall.  As school enrollment grew in the 1940s and 1950s, the community hall had to be pressed into service as the school district's classrooms, lunchroom and for some activities.

1950s and 1960s

Part of the growth was fueled by the closing of the rural one-room schools, which were within the Klemme School District.  By the start of the 1956-57 academic year all of the country schools that had been in the district had closed.  The remaining country school teachers were hired to teach in town.  Two of the rural schools were moved into Klemme and placed by the school.  One building served as the band room and the other was the industrial arts room.  A room in what is now the United Church of Christ was used for a time as a second grade classroom.  Both of the one-room schools still stand in Klemme.  They were moved from the property and renovated into private homes.

It was obvious that more space was needed, especially with the post-World War II baby boom.  It was back to the voters of the Klemme School District.  A $375,000 bond issue was approved in February 1957.  This provided a new school addition with 11 grade school classrooms, a teacher's lounge, library, kitchen, multi-purpose room, industrial arts/shop, music room and a boiler room.  The school addition opened for classes in time for the start of the 1958-59 school year, with a special dedication day that November.

This school was built on land that had been owned by Ed G. Ell, a descendant of the settlers for whom Ell Township is named.

The school enrollment just kept growing so in 1963 a new vocal music room and central library space were added to the building.  1963 was also when Klemme added a football team, to go with its other sports.  Basketball was the first KHS sport, followed by baseball.  During its history Klemme High would also offer track and field, golf, softball, tennis, cross country, volleyball and girls' gymnastics teams.

Closure and the present


The school enrollment rose in the 1960s and peaked in the early 1970s, topping the 400-student mark, but enrollment would decline for a variety of factors.  Farms grew larger and families grew smaller.  More people moved to larger communities.  Open enrollment, which began in Iowa in the 1990s, allowed students a choice of schools.  As enrollment declined, Klemme students shared classes and activities with surrounding districts including Ventura, Garner-Hayfield and Belmond.  The school district began whole-grade sharing with Belmond in 1990 and merged in 1994.  After the school  was closed it was known as Four Point Center and used for community activities.  The building is now privately owned.





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2010 LaVern D. Velau
Klemme Iowa  1889-1989 1989