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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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This former Prescott was replaced by a new building and commitment to the downtown area.
Graduation diploma from Prescott School in 1899. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

PRESCOTT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. Originally known as the Third Ward School. The building was renamed on December 23,1889, in keeping with the desire of the board of education to name every building after a famous American. In 1990 Prescott was the oldest elementary school in the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT.

Rare photo of the original Prescott School. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding

The first Prescott School, PRESCOTT (HIGH SCHOOL) was constructed in 1856. In 1858 it housed kindergarten through high school students. The advanced level and high school were located on the third floor in three rooms and was co-educational. The first two floors were divided into four rooms with children separated by sex and the level of achievement. (1)

In 1911 Prescott housed 603 students from a 170-square block area in 19 rooms with 21 teachers. (2) In April 1912, merchants on Clay Street petitioned the board of education to close the school because it was unsafe.The noise distracted the pupils and the traffic was a hazard. A formal petition to build a new school was filed on August 8, 1912.

The proposition to pass the bond levy passed by a majority of 66 percent. The heavy turnout of women was needed to pass the levy because organized labor opposed the fact that by Iowa law the project had to go to the lowest bidder. While women could not vote in regular elections, they were able to vote in school elections. When bids were received, an additional $40,000 was needed to complete the building. This proposition was defeated by a vote of 60 percent. Revised plans eliminated the auditorium, gymnasium, domestic science and manual training rooms. (3)

The Prescott School Annex was used in 1916 as the site of a dinner for county teachers who had attended a day-long workshop.

Prescott, located at 1249 White Street, was first occupied in 1913 and boasted unilateral lighting. Claimed to be in accordance with the most modern theories, unilateral lit rooms received light from only one side. The building was named in honor of famed historian William Hickling Prescott, a man deeply interested in Spanish history. (4)

During the 1989-1990 academic year, Prescott became the first Dubuque elementary school to complete a D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program.


On August 22, 2006 the ribbon was cut and doors were opened to the new Prescott Elementary School at 1151 White Street.

Beginning in 2008, Prescott began an annual Soup Luncheon as a fundraiser to benefit the school's arts program and community fieldwork for student. School officials suggested a $15 donation and people were also able to bid on silent auction items made by students, faculty and staff. (5)

In 2010 Prescott was an Expeditionary Learning Charter School for the Arts serving a community of 270 students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade.

The following year, Prescott was designated a persistently low-achieving school, Dubuque's first. The announcement, part of the No Child Let Behind federal legislation, meant that the school, Dubuque's only charter school, could face sanctions. In the spring of 2011 the DUBUQUE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA and the Dubuque Community School District began the Adopt a Musician program. Three musicians were "adopted" by the 4th grade classes at Bryant, Marshall and Prescott Elementary Schools. Their purpose of was to enhance the music education of the children by serving as musical ambassadors and teaching artists in the schools. (6)

In December 2013 the board of education approved 7-0 to renew the Prescott charter status. (7) Goals of the school included having a greater percentage of students meet or exceed their target goals in reading, math and science on the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests.

The Dubuque Community School Board voted 4-3 in January, 2018 to not renew the charter at Prescott Elementary School. The expeditionary learning model at the school under the charter had given the school more freedom to innovate and choose resources to teach students. All the District standards were developed into a theme that lasted about a trimester during which students did in-depth studies and the guiding questions related to it. Under the charter, they were required to accept students from anywhere in the district. Those students were be allowed to stay, but now the school would have a more traditional boundary from which to draw its population. Class sizes were also capped under the charter--something that would also change. (8)



1. Hellert, Susan. "When the Third Ward School Became Prescott School," Telegraph Herald, January 17, 2006, p. 1

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Becker, Stacey. "Luncheon Serves Up Soup, Real-World Lessons," Telegraph Herald, December 18, 2015, p. 5

6. Dubuque Symphony Orchestra, "Adopt a Musician," Online: http://www.dubuquesymphony.org/education-outreach/adopt-a-musician

7. Becker, Stacey. "School Board: Renew Prescott Charter Status." Telegraph Herald, December 10, 2013, p. 1

8. "Prescott's Principal on Losing Charter: "Disappointed, but Resolved" KWWL.com January 11, 2018, Online: http://www.kwwl.com/story/37241886/prescotts-principal-on-losing-charter-disappointed-but-resolved