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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Kennedy Elementary School

KENNEDY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. Kennedy Elementary, a westside Dubuque school, opened on November 29,1965. The ceremony at which the cornerstone was laid was held on September 27,1965 and brought an estimated three hundred people outside into forty-five degree temperatures to see Edward Kennedy, brother of the late President John F. KENNEDY. (1) Words on the cornerstone quoted from Kennedy's 1960 inaugural address read: "Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friends and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans .... "

Construction of the school was plagued with repeated delays. Originally scheduled to open eight days after the other Dubuque public schools, Kennedy School opened twelve weeks after the school year began. Kindergarten classes were held at ST. PETER LUTHERAN CHURCH, grades one through three met in the educational wing of WESTMINSTER PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, and students in grades four and five started classes at IRVING ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. Grade six students began the year at LINCOLN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. (2) The completed school, costing an estimated $500,000, was designed with fifteen classrooms built in a U-shape around a multi-purpose room in which were located the auditorium, cafeteria, gymnasium, and library. The office complex closed the rectangle.

Increasing enrollment led to the building of an addition in 1972, another addition in 2003, and the addition of 2 trailers in 2004. During its peak years, with enrollment exceeding 700 students, Kennedy School was the largest elementary school in the state of Iowa. It remained one of the largest in the city and state with a student population of 665 in 2006-2007. With Carver Elementary being built on the west end of town for the 2007-2008 school year, some of the overcrowding at Kennedy School was reduced by redistricting nearly 250 students to Carver. (3) Starting with the 2005-2006 school year, Kennedy School became a K-5 elementary school. All 6th grades were removed from the Dubuque schools and sent to the 3 middle schools. The two-story addition to Kennedy of approximately 25,000 square feet was completed around 2015. It included a new gymnasium, technology center, music and art classrooms, special education classrooms and kindergarten classrooms. (4)

On August 17, 2017 former colleagues gathered at Kennedy to honor David WILLOUGHBY, the first principal of the school who held the position from 1964 to 1984. His contributions to education were remembered by the creation of the Willoughby Multi-Purpose Room. (5)



1. "School History-Kennedy Elementary," Online: http://kennedy.dbqschools.org/about/school-history/

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. "Construction Zone," Dubuque Community School District, Online: http://www.dbqschools.org/district/about-the-district/construction-zone/

5. Rezab, Matthew. " 'Heart' of Kennedy Elementary Dedicated to Memory of School's Longtime Principal," Telegraph HerItalic textald, August 18, 2017, p. 3A