The doors of Lowell Elementary School first opened inSeptember1913, named for James Russell Lowell,who was anAmerican Romantic poet, critic, editor and diplomat. With a degree from Harvard, Lowell used his poetry to express his anti-slavery views. He was appointed as an ambassador to Spain and later England in 1877. His use of dialect and satires was an inspiration to writers like Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken.
During the school's first years, Lowell served only students in grades one through four. Students in the area in grades five through eight attended Washington School. The school was built at a cost of $3,600 and consisted of four classrooms and a basement. Lowell had no library, no formal PE program and no playground equipment. Since the playground was all dirt, one thing Lowell did have was plenty of mud any time it rained. Although there were no formal PE programs, several students each year got informal swimming lessons when they fell into Sand Creek, which flowed along the north edge of the playground. The creek provided further excitement by flooding Lowell's basement twice each year!
Another thing Lowell did not have in the early years was a hot lunch program. Instead, lunch hours lasted 90 minutes, which meant students could walk home. Lowell did have a student health program in the early days. The school nurse came to Lowell once each month. And for health class, students brought their toothbrushes and met outside to learn how to brush their teeth.
In 1926, the north unit of the present school was built. It contained four classrooms, an office on the second floor and an auditorium in the basement. Lowell had, by this time, expanded to eight grades. The remodeling was done with the possibility of making Lowell school a junior high in the future. However, when North Junior High was built in 1936, that possibility quickly faded. Lowell's enrollment grew very rapidly in the 1940's. The average class size was 47. In 1946, teacher Edna Eckroat had 53 students in her class. The desks were in groups of seven, fastened to a board on the floor. Teachers were not allowed to sit down in the classroom during class time. By this time, Lowell had a music teacher who came to teach students a new song every three weeks.
On March 22, 1943, Lowell school's employment policies changed drastically when the Boise School Board changed its rules to allow schools to hire married women as teachers. This change was made because World War II had created a shortage of male teachers. Before the rule change, only single women were hired as teachers, although both single and married men were allowed to teach.
The PTA started the hot lunch program at Lowell's school in 1944. The cost for setting up the kitchen, buying dishes, necessary kitchen utensils and equipment totaled $1,636.44. Hot lunch cost 15 cents per day. The head cook earned $90 a month and her helper received $75 a month. In 1944, eight fathers made ten tables at a cost of $40 for the lunchroom (which also served as the gymnasium). Before this, tables were borrowed from the Hotel Boise.
By 1944, Lowell's PTA membership had grown to 329, which was the largest of any elementary school PTA in the State. PTA dues were 50 cents per person, or 75 cents a couple. By this time, the school was used for many social events, most of which were sponsored by the PTA.
In addition to the monthly PTA general meetings, which usually drew 100 or more people, there were yearly school carnivals, annual turkey or roast beef dinners, square dances, box socials and occasional one-time events to raise money for special projects. At the 1944 school carnival, chances on a $25 War Bond sold for 10 cents each. The PTA's special project in 1944 was to improve fighting at the school. The year 1946 brought Lowell's first playground equipment and the beginnings of a landscaped playground. In 1947, eight new classrooms were added, as well as the library, auditorium, office and storage room. Mrs. Ethyle Hayes, who taught second grade at Lowell's school for 25 years, recalls that for 17 consecutive years, Lowell had four second grade classrooms with forty students in each classroom. The highlight of every second grader's school year in those days was the annual train trip to Nampa and back. Eventually, Lowell's high enrollment of younger children declined because younger families began moving into Boise's new, outlying subdivisions. During the 1950's, the annual all-school Christmas Program was a big event, not only for the students and teachers, but also for the whole Lowell community. The program always included every child's fantasies about Christmas as well as the traditional Nativity scenes and plays. Each room had a tree and drew names with a 25-cent gift limit.
Also during the 1950's the PTA began a Safety Program to protect children crossing State Street at 28thStreet. The major goal of the program was the installation of a traffic signal at that intersection. Parents volunteered to patrol the intersection and act as crossing guards until the light was installed. The cottonwood trees lining narrow, dirt-packed 28th Street were cut down in the early 1950's to allow widening of that street and installation of sidewalks. Sand Creek, which had only one narrow footbridge, was covered. A cyclone fence was installed along adjacent State Street and the entire playground was finally planted with grass. A Boise Parks swimming pool was built near the school, and Hamburger Corner became a staple across 28th Street in the late 50's.
During the 1960's, Lowell housed 4 first grade classrooms, 4 third grade classrooms, 3 fourth grade classrooms, 3 fifth grade classrooms and 3 sixth grade classrooms, with more than 30 students in each class.
In 1977, a special pine tree was planted on the playground. The tree was grown from seeds that U.S. astronauts had taken to the moon and was, therefore, named the "Moon Tree". There were only three such trees planted in the entire state of Idaho. Lowell's school received one of these trees because Governor John Evans had a son attending Lowell at that time.
The late 1970's and early 1980's saw an energy conservation program which resulted in lowered ceilings, fluorescent lighting in the classrooms and halls, and diminished window size in the classrooms. In 1989, the upstairs was remodeled and the walls were re-erected in the open upstairs area. The playground area received new asphalt. In 1994, the United States Department of Education chose Lowell school as a Blue Ribbon School. This prestigious award honors the students, parents and staff of Lowell. With the rich heritage and long history of quality education in our school, the entire community met this long awaited award with much enthusiasm. To receive such a coveted national award was truly a confirmation to all who seek excellence in education that superior standards of learning and achievement can be found within the walls of Lowell.
Also, in 1994, Lowell began its jump into the Idaho History Competition with Regional and State accomplishments. In 1994, a first place State and Regional win, with subsequent 1st and 3rd place achievements in 1995, became part of Lowell Pride. In 1996 there was a 1st and 3rd place award and in 1997, Lowell had a 1st and 4th place award in State and Regional Competitions. The 1996 First Place team went on to the National History Day Competition in Washington D.C. after garnering the Governor's Trophy that same year. They placed 16th in the nation out of 48 entries in their division! Most recently Lowell received the Distinguished School Award in 2012, one of only 12 schools in the state to be recognized for outstanding achievements and work.
The IEA (Idaho Educational Association) has continued to recognize the amazing volunteer effort that continues to be the lifeblood of Lowell. The parents, grandparents and extended family members of our students and staff constantly fill any void that might exist. Our Partner in Education (PIE), the Idaho Department of Transportation, has been a wonderful asset to our school by providing classroom volunteers, hosting bake sales for fundraisers and endless copying of student work to make books and workbooks for our students.
Lowell had a wonderful facelift to its large and expansive playground in 1999 when we received new playground equipment. The playground has been a focal point to the downtown area for many years and is used by the Parks and Recreation Department for soccer, baseball, T-Ball and softball. The Lowell Pool continues a long tradition of being the summertime gathering place for young and old alike throughout the downtown area. The pool has been updated and is now also heated!
Lowell received its most recent facelift during the 2009-2010 school year. The renovation was based on the schools original designs, while still modernizing the equipment and technology.
Lowell has become a melting pot of diversity in culture. During the 2000-2001 school year, Lowell began its first ever "English Language Learners" (ELL) program. Diversity of language and culture has been honored and incorporated into our student body. We welcome these changes and work together to accept and integrate the cultural differences that make Lowell so unique and so diverse.
As we celebrate Lowell's rich history, we fully realize that today we are building a legacy for the future.