Community History - Covington - First District School
The first free-public school was established in Covington in 1820. The school was housed in a log cabin on the courthouse square. In 1836 a second log cabin school was opened on Garrard Street. These two schools were merged in 1842 when a new three-room frame schoolhouse was constructed on the west side of Scott Street between 5th and 6th Streets. The new school was given the name First District. In 1852, this building also housed the first night school in Covington for children who worked during the day.
The 1842 structure served the residents of Covington for more than two decades. However, by the time of the Civil War, the structure could no longer accommodate the number of children living in the district. In 1863, plans were drawn for a new First District School. These plans called for a three-story red brick building on the same site as the original 1842 building. The new school contained 12 classrooms and a small library and was built at the cost $25,000. Each classroom measured 24 x 32’ and contained desks for 56 pupils. Coal stoves heated the structure. The new First District was ready for classes in February 1864. The new building, however, did not contain gas or electric lighting. The pupils and teachers had to depend on sunlight to illuminate the classrooms. On cloudy or foggy days, the rooms were very dark, and therefore, classes had to be cancelled.
Enrollment at First District reached 789 in 1878. By the early years of the 20th Century, however, enrollment began to drop. Much of this loss in enrollment was due to the construction of new residential districts in the central and southern neighborhoods of Covington. In 1907, enrollment had declined to 698. By 1912, enrollment stood at 518.
In October 1930, several men broke into the school and stole several items. Before leaving, they set fire to the building. The fire caused serious damage, especially to the upper floors. Classes resumed in the building while the repair work was being done. A local newspaper described the children sitting at their desks while workmen repaired the ceilings above.
The 1930 fire and the relative age of the building resulted in a general deterioration of the structure. Covington school officials began making places to replace the building with a new one. The Great Depression of the 1930s, however, meant there was very little money in the school fund to finance a new school. In 1931, P.T.A. members Mrs. George Bush and Mrs. S.E. Vorhees began serving lunch to those children who could not afford to bring their meals with them to school. A lunchroom was established in the Scott Street M.E. Church across the street from the school. Typically, lunches were served to 50-60 children each day.
The Covington School Board received funds from the Federal Government’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s to replace the First, Third and Fourth District Schools. The First District School was demolished in 1937 and work on the new building began immediately. While the new school was under construction, the students of First District attended classes at the old Covington High School Building at the corner of 12th and Russell Streets. The new brick First District School was ready for use in 1938.
During the post-World war II era, the population of Covington declined. In particular, the neighborhoods around First District lost large numbers of young children. By 1971, enrollment at First District stood at only 199. The building had a student capacity of 450.
First District remained an elementary school (grades 1-7) facility until the 1971-1972 school year. In that year, the building was renamed Covington Junior High School. All junior high school students in the entire Covington School System attended class in the Scott Street building. This arrangement continued until 1977, when the First District building was again designated an elementary school facility housing grades 1-6.
The Covington School Board again changed the status of First District School in the 2001-2002 school year. The school was renamed Two Rivers Middle School and was designated the school for all 6th and 7th graders in the Covington Schools.
Betty Lee Nordheim, Echoes of the Past, 2002; Howard H. Mills, History of Education in Covington, Kentucky,(University of Kentucky Thesis) 1929; Kentucky Post, January 17, 1907, p. 2, June 7, 1919, p. 1, October 10, 1930, p. 1 and March 6, 1931, p. 1.