The History of Mokena High School
Mokena (population 17,396) is located in far northeastern Illinois in the northeastern portion of Will County. Mokena is located about 8 miles west of Joliet. Interstate Highway 80 runs by the north side of town. U.S. Route 30 travels past the south edge of town.
An excellent history of the town of Mokena can be viewed on the web address of http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/834.html . A short summary of this article includes the following:
The area Mokena is founded in was originally settled in the 1830s. The Rock Island Railway made its way through the area in 1852, adding greatly to the town’s growth potential. A public school was established in 1855. Mokena became somewhat of a farming center by the 1870s, with several businesses added to serve the growing farm population.
Mokena was incorporated as a village in 1880. That year its population was 522. The population would only increase by 135 in the next 60 years. Several things happened over the next 60 years (1940 – 2000) however that have made Mokena one of Chicago’s fastest growing south suburbs. Mokena’s population exploded in the 1990s, more than doubling in the decade to a 2000 census of 14,583. Housing growth in the area has maintained a steady trend which has brought the 2005 estimated population of the town to 17,396.
Information on the former Mokena High School was provided to us by former student Bob Homerding and former grade school student, and local historian, Robert Horras.
Bob Homerding (Class of 1941) advises that Mokena High School was a two-year high school with students attending Joliet Central or Orland High School if they wanted to obtain a four-year degree.
An extensive history of Mokena High School was sent to us by Robert Horras. Robert submitted the following article regarding the history of Mokena High School:
” HISTORY OF MOKENA HIGH SCHOOL
The Mokena High School was in operation from 1913 until May of 1944. It was always one room in a four room school building. The other three rooms were the grade school. There are no records that can positively set a beginning date for the Mokena High School. As far back as January 1883 there was a total enrollment in the Mokena school system of 81 students. Of that number, 22 of these students were 14 years and older. Was this the high school? It begs a different question; when did the term “high school” start?
The 1883 records are the only ones to survive prior to 1920. The proof of a separate high school class is a 1914 photo labeled “First and Second Year High School”. In the school years 1925-26 and 1926-27 there was a third year of high school added. The junior year of high school only lasted these two years. In 1925-26 there were 13 freshmen, 13 sophomores, and 9 juniors. In the school year 1926-27 there were 15 freshmen, 5 sophomores, and 5 juniors. This junior year was probably dropped due to enrollment declines.
As far back as the early 1930’s, students realized that they were not getting a good enough education to compete when they went on to their junior and senior year of high school. When the school board was asked why the one room high school should be kept open for this small enrollment, the response was surprising. The board explained that if Mokena did not keep the two year high school, the farm children would probably stop their education at the eighth grade and not continue. Therefore it seems that quality education was sacrificed in order to allow more students to attend school.
The high school enrollment had always been small. In 1914-15 the enrollment was a total of 16 students. In 1923-24 the total enrollment was 22. In 1930-31 the total was 28. The high point was 1939-40 when the total enrollment was 36. By the last year of the high school in 1943-44, the enrollment was down to a total of 19 students. In September 1943 the three grade school rooms were extremely overcrowded. It was decided to end the high school in May of 1944.
CONTINUING EDUCATION: According to surviving high school students from the 1930’s, most students completed their last two years of high school at the Joliet Township High School. At this time, the train schedule did not allow the students to take the train to Joliet. For this reason, students carpooled. Since drivers’ licenses were not required, the students could drive themselves.
By the late 1930’s the train schedules changed and the students rode the train to Joliet. Some students did take the train to Chicago and attended classes there.
Orland Park also had a four year high school. They had a bus that picked up students in southern Orland Township. Bob Homerding finished his first two years of high school in Mokena in May of 1941. He was recruited by Orland Park to play basketball during his final two years of high school. Orland Park sent the bus into Mokena to pick him up.
Submitted by Robert Horras (local historian) on January 5, 2008
Graduate of Mokena Grade School in 1961″
In 1951 the Lincoln-Way School District was formed out of several small Districts in the area. Mokena was a part of this action, and continues to be today.
The former Mokena High School building now serves as the Mokena City Hall.
Mokena High School Quick Facts
Year opened: 1913
Year closed: 1944
Consolidated to: Lincoln-Way School District (1951)
Mokena HS team nickname: the “Meteors”
Mokena HS team colors: Green & White
School Fight Song: unavailable