The History of Bonner Springs High School

A picture of the high school building built in 1918.
Credit: Kansas Historical Society

A picture of the high school building built in 1918. Credit: Kansas Historical Society

Lyra Thompson, Staff Writer

Apart from the addition of the B-Tec building, Bonner Springs High School has been pretty much the same for the past ten years. It didn’t always look the way it does now, however. It wasn’t even always in the same location. 60 years ago, if someone said they went to Bonner Springs High School, they went to a different building.

The first Bonner Springs school was built where McDanield Learning Center is now. It was a one-room schoolhouse called Tiblow School, and it was in use until 1897. The land on which the schoolhouse stood was donated by John McDanield, the founder of Bonner Springs, in 1873. The land was donated with the sole purpose of being used for a school.

The history of the high school between that one room schoolhouse and the school now is a little unclear. There were a few different buildings, each being used for only a few years, that housed multiple ages of students. One iteration was built in 1918 and is now used as the Bonner Springs City Hall.

Bonner Springs High School where we know it today was built in 1964. The land it was built on used to be a farm belonging to the Rehm family. Jack Rehm donated the land to be used for a school. The Rehm legacy has lived on, as Jack Rehm’s grandchildren graduated from BSHS not too long ago.

Even though the building itself hasn’t changed since the 60s, the ins-and-outs of how the school is run has changed drastically in many ways. BSHS used to have only grades 10-12, while the junior high, as it was called back then, was grades 7-9.

Ms. Wood, the current Scholars Bowl sponsor who first started teaching here in 1967, shares that you used to have to dress formally at school. “We had to dress in high heels and dresses and all,” Wood says, “and we couldn’t have anything really sporty on. So now that I can wear blue jeans and a shirt it’s great.”

According to Wood, some classes used to be separated for boys and girls. Boys couldn’t take cooking classes, and girls couldn’t take more tech-related classes. There were also very little to no girls sports offered. It’s unclear when these classes became co-ed or girls sports became available, but it’s a big way that student life has changed.

Mr. Downing, an English teacher and former student at BSHS, remembers not having air conditioning when he first attended. “You also got heat days,” Downing shares, “So if it was hot, usually in late August, early September, you would go half a day.”

Both Downing and Wood recall the days before technology was a major part of going to school. When Downing was a student, he remembers only having overhead projectors and TVs that were wheeled in infrequently. Once computers started to be used more often for school, there was a computer lab that students could reserve time to use.

Even the day-to-day schedule at BSHS has changed. According to Downing, students used to go to six, full-hour classes, as opposed to today’s seven 49-minute classes. There also wasn’t a dedicated time for clubs to meet like we have now with Seminar. “Back then you would have to meet either before school or after school,” says Downing, “And if you were in a sport, it was hard to be in a club.”

One other big difference between Bonner Springs High School then compared to now is the layout of the building. There have been many new additions over the past 20 years including the science wing and the entire downstairs. About ten years ago, the library was completely remodeled into how we know it today.

Our school has gone through many changes over the past 100 years. From building relocations, technological advancements, and remodeling jobs, Bonner Springs High School 50 years ago would probably be unrecognizable to students today. We may not have the most impressive or interesting history, but I think the changes made to this school over time have all been for the better.