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Wilkins Celebrates its 50th!

1966 was a very big year for Wilkins Elementary School.

It began in January of that year when 98 percent of the voters approved construction of the first phase of the building. Following the overwhelming vote, the Marion Sentinel newspaper commended voters for their support, “We think it speaks well of the intelligence and educational backgrounds of voters in the district and their desire to see that their children are given an excellent start in life through a basic education.” Construction of the kindergarten through third grade building began in the spring of 1966. It was slated for completion by October 15th.

In August 1966, a parent group submitted a petition to the school board that the new school be named to honor Clifford Wilkins for his years of devoted service to the district. Mr. Wilkins was the district’s first superintendent, but had stepped down a couple of years earlier and, in 1966, was the principal at Indian Creek Elementary. The board approved the plan at a September meeting.

Knowing that the new building was not going to be ready in time for the start of the school year, “Wilkins” was set up in various buildings across the district. They included Main Elementary, which is now known as the district’s Learning Resource Center (LRC), The Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, and the multipurpose room at Indian Creek. The Indian Creek arrangement caused some challenges, especially at lunch time and for a local square dance club that used the room each Monday night. The expected six-week arrangement lasted about fourteen weeks due to construction delays.

The building also brought a new policy to the Linn-Mar Community School District. Wilkins was going to be the district’s first “walk-in” school. Prior to that time, all students were bused to school, often on gravel roads. There were very few homes within walking distance to Main Elementary or Indian Creek. The school board discussed whether students would be allowed to ride bicycles to the new school. After much debate, it was decided that third graders could ride their bikes to Wilkins. Two all-steel bike racks, at a total cost of $170 dollars, would be provided by the district.

The flagpole was expected to cost $360 dollars. Henry Katz of Katz Salvage came forward to donate the flagpole to the district. Marion Ready Mix donated the concrete and Marion American Legion Post 298 donated the flag.

An article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette on Tuesday, December 13, 1966, stated that all 10 classrooms at Wilkins Elementary were expected to be occupied by Thursday of that week. Kindergarten, first, and third grades were moved in the previous week. The second graders would move in as their rooms were completed. On Friday, December 16, 1966, “The Wilkins Way” was born!