Lowell Elementary School
Celebrates 100 years
Community-Led Centennial Campaign will Create Outdoor Learning Spaces

On Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, Lowell Elementary School on Madison’s East Side will turn 100 years old. On Jan. 3, 1916, the school opened at 401 Maple Ave. as New Irving School but quickly changed names to Lowell Elementary, after the American romantic poet, James Russell Lowell. Lowell is now a cornerstone of the Schenk-Atwood-Yahara-Starkweather-Darbo neighborhoods. It serves more than 400 students, representing diverse cultures within the student population.

As part of its year-long centennial celebration, the Lowell Community Organization (the school’s parent-teacher organization) is launching a $400,000 fundraising effort, the Lowell Centennial Campaign, to fund major improvements to the Lowell campus. Events are being organized to support the campaign throughout the year. The first is Dining Out 4 Lowell, Jan. 10-16, a restaurant week with a percentage of sales to be donated to the campaign. It kicks off at Next Door Brewing Company on Monday Jan. 10.

All funds raised this year will pay to develop the playground and exterior of the school, to inspire connections with nature, and to create a welcoming, safe and accessible environment for our neighborhood school. A Go Fund Me page is ready for people and businesses to donate. All Lowell School alumni – parents, former students and staff – who are interested in following the campaign and keeping up-to-date on Lowell Centennial events are invited to join the Alumni Community Facebook page.

"We want to kickstart the next 100 years for the school by transforming our campus into an inspiring space that supports education as well as the physical and emotional well-being of our children," says LCO team member Kim Neuschel. "Every kid benefits from learning through hands-on opportunities. The outdoors are perfect for this. Why look at a picture of a pollinator in a book, when you can go outside and see a bee landing on a flower? Learning directly from the environment builds independence, inspiration and curiosity in students."

Rep. Chris Taylor, a Lowell parent, and member of the campaign’s cabinet says, "There is no more important investment than investing in our children and neighborhood public schools. I am excited  to be a part of the Lowell Centennial Campaign to create an outdoor learning environment that Lowell children will enjoy for generations."

The design was the result of a year-long process where staff, students, administrators, parents and community members came together to envision a plan for Lowell for the next 100 years (The Master Plan is attached). A volunteer architect and designer from the neighborhood took the ideas and created a plan that transforms the bleak asphalt playground and underutilized green space at the corner of a busy intersection into an urban forest, science station, school farm, outdoor classroom, community plaza and inclusive playscape -- a true learning laboratory for the 21st Century.

Lowell Elementary School Principal John Burkholder says, “Some kids come out of class wanting to continue what they were doing in the classroom. They might read books or chat about what they have just learned, or they might want to sit or read. Others might need to run, chase each other or kick a ball. They have varying needs. I want the school’s playground and exterior to be a more inviting place to play and learn in. I want to meet the kids’ needs, whatever they may be, on any given day."

Download a copy of the Lowell Family Favorites Cookbook, originally published in 1977!

Click Here

Celebrate Lowell with new tees, hoodies and stickers available HERE.

Lowell Community Organization
is the Parent Teac
her group at
Lowell Elementary School

LCO's Mission: Build community
Offer educational/learning opportunities to parents
Support school projects & enrichment activities through         fundraising

Meetings are Held:
The 2nd Tuesday of every month at 5:30 pm in the Lowell Auditorium

You can also join us online.
Join the LCO Google groups:
Simply send an email to

To post something to the group after joining, simply send an email to lowell-community@googlegroups.com.

Join the discussion on Facebook as well!

A brief history:

January 3, 1916: The school opened its doors as New Irving School for the first time to students living on the East Side of Madison. During the early years it was known as “East End School.” It was renamed Lowell Elementary in that first year. 
1916: The school had eight classrooms surrounding a central gymnasium and enrolled 411 students. 
1927: A nutrition room and solarium on the third floor were added to serve the educational needs of students suffering from tuberculosis. By the late 1920s, enrollment was just short of 1,000 students. 
1931-32: Lowell had a junior high and taught 981 students.
1932-33: The school started a track system where students were placed in classes by their abilities.
1934-35: Diseases disrupted the school year: scarlet fever, mumps, chicken pox and others kept kids from school. Next year there was a remedial learning program with many students repeating grades.
1939-40: The school was open four nights a week and the community used it for the PTA, a mothers group, study groups, sewing classes, scouts, city recruiting and as a library.
1940-41: With World War II in mind, the school celebrated “The American Way” as its annual theme -- “the model democratic spirit, living with others, in peace and harmony, working for all.” Lowell took part in the war by having air raid drills, students purchasing bonds and stamps. The 5th and 6th grade studied the war.
1947-48: The Wisconsin state centennial was observed with a pageant. The 5th and 6th grade choirs sang for the State PTA convention and made a record for the movie, Central School.
1961-62: TV was first used as a teaching medium.
1969-72: The school underwent major remodeling. The old gym was turned into a Modern Instructional Materials Center. The old office became a work room and a conference room. The old library became a suite of offices.
1975: A playground committee was formed and plans for the new construction were put into action. The new playground was constructed during summer 1975, by Lowell parents, with many materials donated by area businesses. The school forest was constructed.

Interviewees: Principal John Burkholder and LCO member Kim Neuschel are available at certain times before and during the weekend.

Contact: Jason Waller at jaywal75@gmail.com or 608-689-5948