The 12 Oldest Schools In Kansas Are Ancient

The Iconic Picken Hall on the Campus of Fort Hays State University in Kansas

The 12 Oldest Schools In Kansas Are Ancient

When many people think about Kansas, they think of flat land and cornfields. But the fact is that Kansas is also rich in great experiences, including fantastic hotels and Michelin Star restaurants. This is also a state that prides itself on providing a great education for the youth. There are many large school districts, wealthy schools, and high-quality institutions to consider. While we’ve covered many aspects of the Kansas school system in the past, today, we’re going to discover the oldest schools in Kansas. We’ll tell you when they started, fun facts about their formation, and some of the famous alumni that once called the schools home.

Oldest Schools in Kansas – Elementary School

It’s important that your kids attend a good elementary school because this is one of the first stepping stones in their educational life. If they go to any of the schools below, then they’ll also be a part of history because these are some of the oldest in the country.

Xavier Catholic School

541 Muncie Rd, Leavenworth, KS 66048

Located in Leavenworth, one of the oldest schools in the state is Xavier Catholic School, which got its start in 1858. It was started by Bishop Miege and Mother Xavier Ross. Classes began soon after, and the first class graduated in 1913. The school has been going strong ever since, as it now has two campuses and students ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade. This is a smaller school with a typical enrollment of 155 students and about 14 teachers. There are team sports and clubs for the kids, and the school gets generally good reviews. This is an institution that may be here until the end of time.

St. Paul Lutheran School

320 N 7th St, Leavenworth, KS 66048

The founding date of this school was 1863 and the school is still going strong until today. This is another smaller school with about 105 students and six teachers. This is the oldest Lutheran school in the state of Kansas. Here, students learn general subjects in addition to how to build Christian character and grow into adults with value and grace. The school has classes for pre-kindergarten until eighth grade. 

St. Mary Catholic School

101 E 9th St, Newton, KS 67114

Another of the oldest schools in Kansas is St. Mary’s, which was founded in 1880. It was started by Father Swembergh, who was the original pastor at St. Mary Parish. When it started, there were 50 students, and all of the teachers were pastors. Originally, the school was held in a two-story frame building near the church. However, that school closed in 1888, and they continued where they are now in Newton, Kansas. While enrollment has grown since the old days, this is still a relatively small school with about 205 students and 13 teachers. It’s a nice school with many sports programs and fun clubs for the kids.

Sacred Heart Catholic School

102 Cottonwood St, Emporia, KS 66801

Our next oldest school is Sacred Heart, which was founded in 1881. You can find it by visiting Emporia, Kansas. It all began when the Sisters of St. Francis of Lafayette, Indiana, visited the area and began teaching in the church. When a school building was constructed, they began teaching the students. As time went on, the school continued to grow, and it was run by the Sisters for a long time. However, since 1972, the school has been under lay leadership and it has continued to thrive after all these years. It’s a relatively small school with about 90 students and six teachers. They continue to provide a faith-based education.

Oldest Schools in Kansas – High School

High School Tutor Giving Male Student Wearing Uniform One To One Tuition At Desk
High school is one of the most important stepping stones in a child's education, so find one that's lasted the test of time.

©Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

There are many great high schools in Kansas, and that’s a good thing because this level of education is essential for growing minds who are about to go to college or the next phase of their life. The old schools below can teach the kids a great deal, including about the history of Kansas.

Leavenworth High School

2012 10th Ave, Leavenworth, KS 66048

This is the oldest high school in the state, and it all began in 1865. The school has moved locations several times over the years, but it’s been in the same place since 1959. The school began teaching subjects such as Latin, Rhetoric, Caesar, and Virgil in addition to traditional subjects like math and science. The very first home of the school was an abandoned church. That was until the taxpayers of the area authorized the construction of a new building. However, that building was destroyed during a fire in 1932. There was another location in 1933, and today, the final spot is 2012 Tenth Avenue. While Virgil and Latin are no longer taught, the kids get to choose from a whopping 100+ courses.

Notable alumni of the school include:

  • Melissa Etheridge – Musician
  • Mary Byrd – Astronaut
  • Sharice Davids – United States House Representative

Maur Hill – Mount Academy

1000 Green St, Atchison, KS 66002

This Catholic private school was established in 1863. It currently sits in Atchison, Kansas. The idea of this school is that they teach children about life and Benedictine traditions. While it’s ancient and began from humble beginnings, the school currently has students from all around the globe. That gives the students a great chance to learn from one another and expand their minds. It’s a smaller school with about 165 students and 21 teachers, with a great student-to-teacher ratio of 8:1.

Bishop Ward High School

708 N 18th St, Kansas City, KS 66102

Founded in 1908, Bishop Ward High School is an institution in Kansas City. The fact that this school is still standing is especially astounding, considering it began during the Great Depression. It was started by Catholics in the area, and it was named after Catholic Bishop John Ward. The school had a tough time during World War II but stayed standing. Over the years, the school has stood as a beacon of hope for many students who are looking to grow into outstanding adults. This is a larger school than some of the others on the list, with about 300 students and 27 teachers.

Hayden Catholic High School

401 SW Gage Blvd, Topeka, KS 66606

This Catholic school was founded in 1911, and it’s located in Topeka, Kansas. The school is named after Fr. Francis Hayden, who came to Topeka in 1869 to study at a seminary that was on the site of the Assumption Church. The school started from very humble beginnings. In 1911, it was just a single room in the basement of Assumption Grade School. In 1912, a new building was built, and the school opened its doors to 30 students. As the years went on, the school had different names, and the campus evolved. Science and computer labs were added, a grotto was built, and many new buildings have been constructed. This is a school with a lot of history, so consider visiting if you ever get the chance.

Oldest Schools in Kansas – Colleges

Like in most states, the colleges in Kansas are very impressive, and they have a lot of history built into their walls. Students who attend these institutions get a great education, and they are a part of a wonderful tradition of higher learning.

Baker University

618 Eighth St, Baldwin City, KS 66006

This is a great university that was founded back in 1858. That makes it the first-ever four-year university in Kansas. It’s affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The school is named after Methodist Episcopal biblical scholar and bishop Osman Cleander Baker. The school is still going strong to this day, and the campus is still home to the original campus building, though it is now a museum that teaches visitors about the school and the surrounding Baldwin City. What was once small is now a major university with a student population of over 3,000. They have a great athletics program, clubs, and more. Notable alumni from the school include:

  • Edith Bideau – Singer
  • Andrew Cherng – Founder of Panda Express
  • Kevin Mahogany – Singer
  • Mike McCarthy – NFL head coach
  • Dewey Short – Politician

Kansas State University

Manhattan, KS 66506

Kansas State University during winter
Kansas State University is one of the oldest and most notable colleges in the state.

©Rachel A Walker/Shutterstock.com

This major university was founded in 1863. It was officially the first public institution/college in the state, and it’s still open in Manhattan, Kansas. The original name of the school was Kansas State Agricultural College. It began operations during the Civil War. The efforts to open this school began in 1861 when Kansas became a state. One of the state legislature’s first acts was to start the school. Oddly enough, the first bill to establish the school was vetoed at the time. However, better minds prevailed, and the school had its first session on September 2, 1863. 

As it was back then, students now can choose between different areas of study, including a liberal arts education, agricultural education, and more. Though the school is ancient, today it’s quite large, and it had a record enrollment of close to 25,000 students in 2014. It has a very expansive campus that covers 668 acres, and it still has many buildings that were built before 1910 that remain standing. Some notable alumni from the school include:

  • Kirstie Alley – Actress
  • Craig Bolerjack – NFL announcer
  • Eric Stonestreet  – Actor
  • Jerry Wexler – Record producer
  • Darren DeFrain – Book writer
  • William A. Porter – Founder of E-Trade
  • Michael Beasley – NBA player
  • Tyler Lockett  – NFL player

Ottawa University

1001 S Cedar St, Ottawa, KS 66067

This private Baptist university was established 158 years ago, in 1865. Since then, its reputation has spread far and wide. It all began in the 1860s when Baptist missionaries started a church in the Ottawa area that was then primarily populated by Potawatomi and Odawa peoples. The first idea for the campus was from Rev. John Tecumseh “Tauy” Jones. He thought it would be good for Baptists and the Native Americans to work together to create a college. They made an agreement, and the two groups continued to work together to bring the school to fruition. The school has grown by leaps and bounds since that time, and today, there are additional campuses open in Surprise, Arizona, Overland Park, Kansas; and Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Today, students can get their degrees in over 25 different programs. There’s also a vast athletics program, numerous Greek organizations, and many clubs to keep the kids busy. A selection of notable alumni include:

  • Robin Harris – Comedian
  • Merritt C. Mechem – Supreme Court Justice
  • John Sherman – Owner of the Kansas City Royals
  • DeDe Dorsey – NFL player
  • Derrick Ward – NFL player

Sterling College

125 W Cooper Ave, Sterling, KS 67579

This Sterling College is located in Sterling, Kansas, and it was established in 1887. It began as Cooper Memorial College, and it was started by the United Presbyterian Church of North America. It was officially named Sterling College in 1920. One of the original buildings is Cooper Hall, which was built in 1887 and is still standing today. This school also has an online component, an expansive athletics program, and many student organizations. Notable alumni of the college include:

  • Windell Middlebrooks – Actor
  • Osman Mendez – Soccer Player
  • David Hahn – Politician
  • Joshua Svaty – Politician


These are some of the oldest schools in Kansas, and they have a lot of history to offer. Kansas is a great state with wonderful people, and many of them attended these fine institutions. If you’re in the area, consider visiting a few and see what old-school education was all about.

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