HISTORY OF DUNLAP SCHOOL DISTRICT #323
The Village of Dunlap was first settled in 1834 and incorporated in 1954. The early settlers came from the East: New York, Massachusetts, and Ohio. In 1837, when another group of prospectors came, among them was a gentleman by the name of Alva Dunlap who settled on land southeast of the present town of Dunlap. The scarcity of timber for fuel, fencing and building purposes was a problem to the first settlers, but as time went on, saw mills sprang up, coal mines provided fuel, and Osage Orange hedges were introduced for fences.
In 1840, the first one-room school building was erected. By 1842, there were enough people to hold elections, and in 1850 township government was adopted. A canal opened up in 1848 and helped those who lived along the Illinois River. After the Civil War, Alva Dunlap began his gradual retirement from farming by selling his farm to his son. In 1869, he erected a new brick residence that became known as “Old Brick”. It was burned to the ground on April 24, 1966 and is now the location of Prospect United Methodist Church.
When the railroad wanted a right-of-way through Alva’s land, he sold it to the Rock Island Railroad for $1. 00 on the condition that the town be named for him. Alva foresaw the advantages of a railroad for himself and his neighbors since the railroad offered quick and easy transportation to Peoria and its markets. The first post office was in the Alva Dunlap home tended by his daughter.
In 1893, the people of Dunlap saw the need for advanced schooling beyond the eighth grade. Two years of additional study were added, and the first graduating class was in 1895. From 1898 to 1905, these two grades were continued, but no graduation exercises were held or diplomas granted.
In 1897, a new school building was started but was not completed until 1899. Grades one (1) through eight (8) were on the lower level with the high school on the second floor. A gymnasium was later built, and a cottage just west of it was used as classrooms for the Home Economics and Bookkeeping Departments.
The first Parent-Teacher Club was organized in 1905 with Mr. New as its first president. In 1916, the Board of Education was elected with W. D. Charles Threshie as the first president.
The Athletic Association was organized in 1914-1915 for the bettering of the athletics under the direction of Clifford C. Merrill, the principal at the time. As a member of the association, monthly dues of five cents (.05) were required to help buy athletic supplies. From the early days of the school, athletics included basketball, tennis and track, with football being added at a later date.
The first meeting of the Dunlap High School Alumni Association was on August 17, 1923 at Shehan’s Hall. The committee appointed to take charge of the first banquet was Lawrence Shehan, Lucy Harlan, Maude Jackson, Hazel Adkinson, and G. F. Coriell.
In 1934, due to a growing enrollment, a new high school was built adjoining the gymnasium and completed for the school year 1935-36. This new school had a chemistry and biology lab, a large home economics department, typing, shorthand and bookkeeping rooms, music and band, mathematics, English, World and United States History, Civics, Agriculture and Latin.
In the fall of 1934, M. H. Huffman, a former teacher and coach for Dunlap High became the principal, and his tenure continued until 1960 when he retired.
Dunlap Grade School was built in 1949. In 1957 several new classrooms and a new gym were added on the south end of the high school running parallel to Route 91.
UNIT DISTRICT FORMED JULY 1, 1969
On July 1, 1969, the Wilder-Waite Grade School, Dunlap Grade School, and Dunlap High School joined to form the Dunlap Unit School District #323 by pooling resources from all schools.
In 1975, the School Board saw the need to erect a new building for the Dunlap High School, and the old one was to be used as a junior high for grades seven and eight. This building was then renamed “Pioneer Junior High. ”
A new high school with a pool opened in 1976. Some of the features in the new high school were the following:a large Home Economics Lab, Industrial Arts Department, a spacious and well equipped computer lab and Business Department, a large Chemistry and Biology Lab with a small greenhouse adjacent, a Band and Music room with built-in risers for Chorus and Band, two foreign languages, including French and Spanish, plus four years of English Grammar and Literature, a Mathematics Department and one for Fine Arts. As for sports, there was a large indoor heated swimming pool, an outdoor all-weather track, plus the new football field with bleachers, softball, baseball, football, swimming, and track. There was also a large library, as well as a large Commons or Cafeteria that is located just beyond the foyer, where, each year, the Dunlap High School graduates meet for the annual Alumni Banquet.
In 1980, a third K-6 Elementary School (Banner Grade School) opened on 12610 N. Allen Road, which also served the Unit District #323 Administrative office. Just inside the entrance of this building is the top of the old well and a few bricks from the original Banner School.
In 1990, an addition was added on to the new high school which has now been turned into two classrooms.
In 1998, the following additions were made to Dunlap High School:six new classrooms, new library/technology center, additional locker room space, additional cafeteria space, and enhanced student services area.
The new “Dunlap Middle School” was also built in 1998 on the south end of the high school campus which houses grades six, seven, and eight. The seventh and eighth grades moved into the new school in January, 1999, and the sixth grade classes moved into the new classes in August, 1999.
On March 21, 2000, a referendum was passed for the construction of a new K-5 elementary school building to be located on Brauer Road just west of Radnor Road. Construction began in the summer of 2000 and the school was named Ridgeview Elementary School. The section of road where the school sits was renamed Ridgeview Drive, and it opened in August, 2001.
In May 2000, demolition of the old high school and the old gym began. The gym, science building, and the rest of the two-story structure were demolished. The remaining classrooms and newer gym were also renovated with parking added, and the building became the “Dunlap District #323 Activity Center”. The north end of the building consisted of bricks from the old high school as well as the black lanterns and scroll were also from the old high school.
Alumni Park was formed on the green space on the corner where the school had been located. A picture of the old gymnasium and school is etched in a black granite oval in the park which was donated by the James White family. Alumni Park was dedicated on June 2, 2001.
In August, 2005, the following renovation was completed to the high school: Freshman Academy with ten new classrooms, new auditorium with an 1100 seat capacity, fine arts center for the band, chorus, and visual arts, auxiliary gymnasium, and updated cafeteria which includes a food court.
In March, 2006, a referendum was passed for building Dunlap Valley Middle School. This facility opened in August, 2008, for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students.
In February, 2010, the District Office moved to a leased space in Peoria in order for the high school to expand the office area into classrooms.
In September, 2010, ten additional classrooms were added to Dunlap High School, including two computer labs and a science lab. This was the Phase 1 constructions at Dunlap High School.
In November, 2010, a referendum was passed for building Hickory Grove Elementary School. This facility opened in August, 2012.
In September 2011, $5,000,000 in athletic upgrades were completed including artificial turf football field, new soccer complex, concession stands, and a new tennis complex.
In August 2013, a new modular classroom building was added at Wilder-Waite Elementary School to accommodate growth. This included restrooms and four classrooms.
In August 2014, Dunlap High School completed a two story addition to the current school (Phase 2 construction). The additions included a renovated cafeteria, updated locker rooms, weight room, new science labs, computer labs, robotics lab, and a capacity for 1,800 students.