Junior Highs and Middle Schools

Russell Junior High library

Students studying in the Russell Junior High Library, n. d.

We frequently receive questions relating to the distinction between middle schools and junior high schools and the existence of junior highs in our current and former school districts.

Near the turn of the twentieth century, educators in the United States began to favor a change in the structure of the educational system to assist students in making the transition to high school. This led to the creation of junior high schools around the country.

E. O. Holland and O. L. Reid, superintendents of the Louisville Public Schools, did not wish to adopt the junior high model initially. Under Superintendent Holland, the former city school system created departmental schools for seventh and eighth graders in 1911 and 1912. Departmental schools reflected the organization of schools around the teaching of one subject or group of related subjects by specific teachers.

The former city system began to open junior highs in the late 1920’s and departmental schools were ended. The Louisville schools had twenty junior high schools over the years. Junior high schools contained three grades: seventh, eighth, and ninth. This complemented the schools we now identify as high schools but were then actually senior high schools. Over the years the city district operated seven senior high schools: Ahrens, Atherton, Central, duPont Manual, Louisville Girls, Louisville Male, and Shawnee High Schools. These high schools then contained the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades.

In the county system (Jefferson County Public Schools) seventh through twelfth grades were generally provided at each high school, in one building that served as both a junior high and a senior high under a high school name. One exception to this pattern was Frost Junior High which opened in 1966.

The systems merged in 1975. Around the same time, a movement away from the junior high model was emerging around the country. Middle schools became separate entities, removing younger students from those high school facilities where junior and senior highs had operated together. Middle school student bodies became the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. Sixth grades were removed from elementary schools. The ninth grade became part of high school and the term senior high disappeared from general use.

Junior highs in the newly merged Jefferson County Public Schools were converted to middle schools in the 1976-1977 school year. Some newer middle school facilities have also been constructed since that time.

Resource Information

This resource is provided by the Jefferson County Public Schools Archives and Records Center, Louisville, Kentucky. See JCPS History Wiki and Blog Information for contact information.