District Characteristics: Niangua R-5 School District is located between Marshfield and Conway just south of Interstate 44. District enrollment is 280 students K-12 with another 25 full time preschool students.
Niangua is a Native American name meaning “bear”. In 1870, the railroad was built through the area by the South Pacific Railroad Company. Every few miles along the railroad, towns were established, since the railroad was the principal means of transportation. Niangua was founded at this time and became a shipping center for the area. Stock pens were built by the railroad tracks for holding hogs, cattle, horses, and even turkeys to be shipped. Most of these were sent to the St. Louis market. Owners of larger shipments would ride to market on the caboose of the freight train hauling their stock. Much produce came from Wright County and an area of several miles around. The cattle, hogs, and even turkeys were driven on foot to the stock pens. Sometimes they stopped overnight at a farm along the road where the farmer corralled and fed the stock for the shipper.
In 1882, the Niangua School District was organized. A two story frame building was built. The lower story was used as a school and for religious meetings. The lower story was used by the Masonic Lodge. At this time, a four month school was held followed by a subscription school of three months. This served for a number of years until a two story brick school was built in the southeast part of town in 1906. The lower floor had three rooms used for the elementary grades and two rooms of the upper story were used for the two year high school. The other room was for the eighth grade. This grade was moved downstairs later to make room for a third year high school. A classroom was made in the open hall above the stairway. The office was a small room below the belfry. The large bell was rung from the office. A fourth year high school was added in 1926-1927.
About this time, a large community building was built during the term of Superintendent Paul Potter. It was financed through contributions and used as a gym until 1934 when the new school was built. The old school, school grounds, and community were sold. The brick building was torn down and the community building remodeled into a barn and is still standing.
The 1930’s was a depression period and money was scarce, but the outlying school districts which were part of the Niangua Consolidated District, organized about 1916, were brought into Niangua School. School busses were added around 1930.
With the increased enrollment, more room was necessary and Niangua, as always in times of crisis “came through” and $20,000 in bonds to build the present high school building. J. Lee Kreger was Superintendent at that time. The building was finished at the end of 1934. The move from the old building was made on foot following the Christmas vacation. This was a “red letter” day in our school history. The old building had no plumbing, therefore we had outdoor restrooms and obtained water from a well in front of the building. Many mornings in winter the pump was frozen and had to be thawed before water could be pumped. The wooden floors of the old building were oiled to keep down the dust, while the new floors were varnished. With a water system in the new building, there were indoor restrooms and water from fountains. The enclosed gym was a welcomed modern facility.
Due to increase enrollment and an expanded curriculum a few years later, two rooms were added to the back of the building, one on each side. A lunchroom was needed and in order to participate in the government sponsored lunchroom program, a room was added. This was financed through the PTA with a number of money making projects and contributions. Over the years it has served as a Music room. The room is now used as an Art room and dark room facility.
At the end of World War II, when Camp Crowder was closed by the government, the barracks building were given to schools provided they remove them. Niangua Schools was given one and many men in the community helped dismantle and move it here. It became a shop, or Industrial Arts building and was used in this capacity until 1991. It then served as a Music room. It currently serves as a Weight Room.
Enrollment grew as did the curriculum and classrooms were running over. The first and second grade room, with Vivian Stuber as teacher had fifty pupils. There was an urgent need for a new elementary classroom building and school lunchroom. Eighty thousand dollars ($80,000) was voted for this purpose and in 1962 the present elementary classroom building was built. This provided room for one grade to a room. The Old Gym was used until 1970, when due to its small size and limited seating capacity, it was inadequate for our needs. Bonds of $110,000 were voted to build a new gym. Total cost was about $140,000 with the addition of state provided funds. An additional facility was acquired in 1991 and was converted into a Vocational building.
Rural schools consolidated with the Niangua School beginning in 1916 were: Mathis, Copening, Plank and Mackey. Later, parts of Reed, Pack, Sparkle Brook, and Amity were added. All of Oak Grove (Brown), Macedonia, and Kilburn were added in the 1950’s.
Among Superintendents serving the school are: O.P. Keller, Ethel Day Max, Henry Whittenburg, Walter McCall, Paul Potter, Perry Shook, J. Lee Kreger, Jack Hilderbrand, Superintendent Wheeler, Superintendent Cole, Superintendent Taylor, Lloyd Dill, Benn Bradley, Clyde Byrd, Dean Dobbins, Raymond Patterson, J.W. Evans, Kenneth Sands, and Carl Doherty who served fifteen years (1984). This is the longest tenure of any Niangua Superintendent. Subsequently Tom McGuire, Larry Reed, Dr. Roy Manion, Don Peebles, Andy Adams, TJ Bransfield, and Josh Hume, served as superintendents. Dr. David Baker is the current superintendent.
In 1934 there were four elementary and five high school teachers. The total enrollment was about 125-150. In 1955 the enrollment was 272 and in 1984 the enrollment was 384 with 26 teachers.
Other Facilities: Niangua R-5 School District contains an Early Childhood Building capable of housing 50 students ages 3 to 5. The district also has a monolithic dome safety room utilized by the community as well as the school district.
Athletics: The school district supports youth athletic programs in basketball, baseball, and softball. Junior high athletic programs in basketball and volleyball. Varsity athletic programs in baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball, and cross country.