The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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November 21, 2013

Glimpse of the Past: School bears name of assassinated president

The Eternal Flame at Arlington National Cemetery is a remembrance of John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated 50 years ago — Friday, Nov. 22, 1963. Other tributes to our 35th president are the more than 100 public schools named in his honor, including a building for elementary students in Mankato.

Kennedy Elementary, near the intersection of E. Main Street and Kennedy Street, opened three years after JFK’s death.

Today, students entering through its front doors pass by a framed portrait of JFK, a bronze sculpture of the late president and a work by Marian Anderson that superimposes Kennedy’s image over the Mankato school that bears his name.

It’s likely these students’ grandparents were in class that Friday in 1963 when the president was shot in Dallas.

Kennedy’s daughter, Carolyn, was not yet 6 years old the day of his funeral. His son, John Jr., was only 3.

Other District 77 buildings named after presidents include North Mankato’s hilltop school, Hoover Elementary School. Hoover and Kennedy were constructed out of a $1,300,000 bond issue authorized by voters in 1964. Similar designs were used for both buildings.

Costs for the Kennedy building and site came in at $675,364. A.J. Ross and Associates of Mankato designed the school’s team-teaching room and the 15 classrooms arranged around a central core of special areas. The Mankato school — built to house 500 pupils, kindergarten through sixth grades, had an estimated enrollment close to its capacity even before its bell’s inaugural ringing on Sept. 6, 1966.

Original plans called for three kindergarten rooms and 12 rooms for the older students — two sections for each grade. The new building featured a library, gymnasium with two physical education stations, offices and an all-purpose room which doubled as cafeteria space.

Mary Lu Hansen served as Kennedy’s first principal. She moved from the same position at Jefferson Elementary School.

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