In the late eighteen hundreds the federal government encouraged settlement throughout the Great Plains region. The homestead act of 1862 permitted settlers to buy large plots of land for small fees. In return, these settlers had to live on the land for at least five years.
There were all types of people who made up the population in Bennett during its formative years. There was the good, the bad, the indifferent, the ambitious, and the drifters. In addition, representatives of almost every national origin came to create a new life.
These settlers were responsible for the growth and development of Bennett. We can be certain that those who settled here so many years ago were unafraid of hard work and diversities. More importantly, these people were willing to endure hardships to promote their chosen way of life. Thus began a quest for education and knowledge throughout the town of Bennett.
Although several one-room school house’s had been built throughout the Bennett, Watkins, and Strasburg, areas during the late 1800’s, the first Bennett school to serve a substantial number of students was built on the district site where the new high school auditorium currently stands.
Between 1916 and 1919 several classrooms were added to the original building. In addition to these classrooms, a gym and a stage were also part of the building expansion. The first graduating class in 1920 consisted of two students. Compared to today’s standards, two graduating students may seem fairly minimal. However, before 1920 students who wanted to complete their education past the eighth grade had to travel to other high schools located in Denver or Brighton.
Over the next fifty years students would create many memorable experiences in the original school. Classes such as Latin, English, mathematics, and music were offered to the students. Boy’s basketball was the first athletic activity offered to gentlemen. While Pep Club was a featured activity for the ladies. Other sports activities such as, track, baseball and football were implemented as the school grew throughout the thirties. Dances, banquets, awards programs, graduations, operetta’s for every grade level, concerts, and sporting events would fill the facility and develop the educational foundation of Bennett School District.
The suffering of the Great Depression extended into every area of society. In rural areas conditions were virtually paralyzed. Farm income declined by 60 percent between 1929 and 1932. A third of all US farmers lost their land. In 1938 the superintendent Bryan Burke stated, “We present the school annual Tiger Tracks with pleasure, for we have done a better job than ever before. The Tiger Tracks first appeared in 1930, and for two years, thereafter, in a printed form with one to twelve pictures in it. Then it fell by the way during the depression years of 1933 and ’34. In 1935 we again revived it in a small and cheap form, to be sure, spite of its humble form, the 1938 Tiger Tracks had around sixty pages and fifty pictures…….We hope you like it and that in future years you will look into it and see how we lived in 1938.
By the end of the 1930’s, the New Deal (as the Roosevelt administration was called) had created many of the broad outlines of the political world we know today. Bennett High School had also continued to construct the foundation of our programs as they are today. The seniors of 1940 dedicated the school annual to the first student council of Bennett High School. They stated, “ The members of the first student council have tried to be democratic in all that they have undertaken. The student government has made our last year of high school more enjoyable than ever before.
In 1941 the attack on Pearl Harbor had thrust the United States into the greatest and most terrible war in the history of humanity. Bennett High School like the rest of the nation created support for the troops, pride in their nation, and developed an emphasis on the agricultural strength of the area. The increased need for wheat and the population boost in the late Forties reinforced the need to expand the high school and it’s programs. The district built a new high school and agricultural building next to the original school building. A section of this addition still stands today connecting the auditorium and gym to the new two-story addition.
During the 50’s and 60’s Bennett High would experience the American dream. There were more students selected for homecoming queen and king, Mr. And Mrs. BHS, Most popular students, FFA Sweethearts, FHA Dreamboats, Betty Crocker Scholars, and prom king and queen during this twenty-year period that ever came before or after this time period. Athletics of the school also experienced an increase in participation. A former student once stated, “the cars would line up around the football field to watch the games. After the homecoming game the sox hop was a featured and always memorable event.”
The rise of the 70’s and 80’s brought reform to education. Learning environments were researched, open classrooms were the rage, and Bennett schools were in the forefront of this movement. The district implemented the next building expansion project. A new elementary school that is currently the middle school was built. The high school added another building, which is now known as the north high school. Community, support, activities, and growth were the building blocks of these progressive years. In addition to winning state titles in basketball and wrestling, Bennett high school implemented it’s first industrial arts program, wrestling team, and marching and jazz bands. The district saw additional growth in the middle nineties and built the current elementary school opening with new innovative architecture of the time.
Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind and Every Student Succeeds Act has set the pace in the world of education for the past twenty years. National, state, and district standers were implemented into school curriculum's. Standardized testing has become a vital element of data driven instructional strategies. Bennett School District continues to change and grow with the fast paced and ever growing world of education pushing the district into 21st Century learning. The last building project in 2006 saw the addition of ten new classrooms, a state of the art auditorium, and renovations to existing high school facilities, a new weight room and locker rooms. In 2018 the district began a new building project, the expansion of the elementary school. This state of the art twenty room educational facility will house our intermediate grades 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students. Bennett School District continues to support "Proud Traditions" set forth by alumni while looking onto the "Bright future" of education.