On this day in Duluth in 1918, the U.S. Grant Elementary School opened at Eight Avenue East and Eleventh Street. The building cost $200,000 and was considered “one of the best” such facilities in the city—at least the “most modern and best equipped.” Seven teachers greeted 245 students that day under the direction of principal John Bracken. On January 24, 1919, the school held a formal opening so parents could tour the facility. The evening featured a program by students of Franklin, Munger, and Grant Schools and speeches were made by Dr. L. B. Coffman, head of the Department of Education at the University of Minnesota (and namesake of the U’s Coffman Memorial Union in Minneapolis), Duluth schools superintendent K. J. Hoke. Following the talks, a dance was held in the school gym. In 2013 the Duluth School District completed a multi-million dollar remodel and expansion of the school and changed its name to Myers-Wilkins Elementary for Ruth Myers, considered the “grandmother of American Indian Education in Minnesota” and Marge Wilkins, an African-American community activist and namesake of an award presented by the University of Minnesota Duluth. That same year the school board also chose to name an auditorium at the new East High School “Myers-Wilkins.” Why Duluth required both a school and an auditorium to be named in honor of the same individuals has never been explained. It was all part of a period of renaming by the school district. The district renovated Ordean Junior High School, built on land donated by Albert Ordean, and named the facility East High School. It also renovated East High School, originally East Junior High School (the word “East” is carved in stone above its front door), and renamed it Ordean-East Junior High School. In doing so the district retained the use of “East High School” at the same time it claimed it was trying to eliminate the “East-West” divide between Duluth’s high schools. If the board had simply kept the “East” name on the junior high and named the new high school in honor of Ordean, it would have eliminated “directional” names like East or Central for the high schools.
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