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History

  • It was with an eye to the future that the Board of Education, on September 15, 1975, purchased land in southeast Wichita for a new elementary school. Three years later another site was purchased in northeast Wichita for the same purpose. August 4, 1980 the architectural firm of Griffith and Bonham was appointed to design two elementary school buildings, identical in plan but not in finish, to be located on these two sites.

     

    E.W. Johnson, Inc., was awarded the building contract for both locations in the amount of approximately $3,250,000 per building. Construction began on September 7, 1982 at the southeast site. After considering all recommendations, the Board of Education decided the newest elementary school should bear the name of the local pioneer in the field of aviation, Walter H. Beech.

     

    Mr. Beech stands in the front ranks of air pioneers. He not only foresaw the role of the airplane far into the future, but translated that foresight into reality, producing a line of outstanding aircraft and establishing the aircraft company which later became Raytheon and continues to be one of Wichita's major industries. At the age of 23, Mr. Beech made his first recorded solo flight - just 11 years after Orville Wright flew for the first time at Kitty Hawk. After serving in the Aviation Section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps as a pilot, engine expert and flight instructor, he came to Wichita as a test pilot and demonstrator for the Laird Swallow Aircraft Company. He later became vice president and general manager of the firm. Following a dispute over whether Swallow frames should be made of metal or wood, Mr. Beech left the company in 1924 and organized the Travel Air Company of Wichita which later merged with Curtiss-Wright Airplane Company of New York.

     

    In 1932, in the darkest year of the depression, Walter Beech and his wife of two years, Olive Ann, returned to Wichita to establish the Beech Aircraft Company. The company's products were successful and the firm established itself as a world leader in civilian and military aircraft. Active to his last day, Mr. Beech was stricken with a heart attack and died suddenly November 29, 1950.

     

    Walter H. Beech Elementary School opened its doors on August 27, 1984 to 437 anxious students. They were enthusiastically greeted by Principal Gloria McAfee and her staff of 36. The building is equipped with a gym, multipurpose room, library media center, facilities for music and art, 23 classrooms, a computer lab, a learning kitchen and much more.

     

    At the beginning of the 1988-89 year, sixth grade students were incorporated into the middle school program, leaving a K-5 enrollment of approximately 450 students.

    In April 2000, the voters of the Wichita School District approved a $284.5 million bond issue. The projects began in the fall of 2000 and were completed over the next five years. The plan built 19 multipurpose rooms, upgraded science labs, replaced portable classrooms with permanent construction, improved handicap accessibility to all buildings, rebuilt five existing elementary schools, added a new elementary and middle school, expanded seven other elementary schools and provided nine new libraries as well as the expansion of nine others. Building infrastructure in 82 buildings was also upgraded, including the replacement of antiquated plumbing, updates and expansion of electrical systems, replacement of inefficient or broken windows and doors, upgrades of heating and cooling systems, and asbestos abatement when required.

     

    Beech received a new addition, which included four classrooms, for an estimated cost of $450,000. On January 24, 2005 the Board contracted National Contractors, Inc. to complete the Beech, Gammon and Isely Bond projects for $1,633,750.

     

    The Bond project was completed and the dedication ceremony was held November 15, 2005.