Stewart Elementary School

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Stewart School Home of the Stewart Stars!               Shining Brightly for Over 50 Years!

School History


History of Stewart Elementary School

Stewart School was built in 1966 at 21st and Cedar.  In 1966 this was the edge of town with only the stockyards across the street to the north and the drive-in movie theater a half mile north.   The Truck Stop was west of the school along with 7 homes.  The school was built in response to the growing number of homes being built in the area.

The school was named in honor of two longtime teachers and principals, Kate and Jennie Stewart.  Both of these women graduated from Yankton High School.  Kate was a teacher and principal at Garfield Elementary School for 43 years (1893-1936).  Jennie taught for 52 years (1892-1944) as well as being a principal of grades 7-8 in two buildings, the Junior High School and Central School.  Both of these women began their teaching careers in Yankton at the third grade level. C.A. Peterson, of Rock Rapids, Iowa, was the general contractor; Ray Krovosa, Plumbing and Heating of Yankton, completed the mechanical work; Battin Electric, of Yankton, did the electrical work on the newest of our grade schools. The buff colored brick building was built with nine classrooms and an all-purpose room. Each grade level had only one classroom, except for the first and second grades, which had two. An incomplete listing of staff members: principal-David Mendel, secretary-Naomi Somers, custodian-Pat Smith, 2nd grade-Nelva Kooistra, 5th grade-Carol Winter, and 6th grade-Muriel Seger.

Almost immediately student numbers increased leading to Stewart’s first of three additions.  In 1969, seven additional classrooms, three rest rooms and a teachers’ lounge was completed. Stewart School had two classrooms at each grade level as it remains today. Currently music, speech, a resource room and 4th and 5th grade are located in the 1969 addition.

As public law 94-142 was enacted in the mid-70s the need for special education classes became apparent.  Former special education director Joyce Wentworth played a major role in the planning of a 9,500 square feet addition known as the West Wing.  The Special Education wing was completed in 1987 enlarging the school with five classrooms, rest rooms, instructional kitchen, conference room and speech, testing and therapy rooms. Resource rooms I, II, and III, early intervention, and physical therapy are still housed in this wing today.

ADA requirements and the need for more space for student instruction led to a major renovation and building project with ground breaking in April of 2009.  The music area was renovated to include a band lesson room and additional square feet for music classes.  The fourth grade classrooms were relocated to allow for a new hallway to lead into a new addition on to the north side of the school.  The bathrooms in all of the areas were upgraded to make them ADA compliant. 

In March of 2010 a new gym, library, computer lab and two special education rooms were completed.  The project was built by as many local contractors as possible: Welfl Construction (General Contractor), Fejfar Plumbing, Power Source Electric, Baete Forseth (HVAC).  The new gym offers much more space for PE activities as it is has twice the square feet of the old gym. The gym also features energy efficient lighting, adjustable baskets and much needed storage for equipment.  The new gym allows us to use the old gym as the lunchroom and an area for special classroom projects and guidance activities. The new occupational therapy room at Stewart School has been designed and is being used to provide a “diet” of sensory input activities in order to help children meet specific sensory needs, as identified by our occupational therapist.   The Stewart library was a great addition. The additional space provides a better look at the collection with more room for everyone to enjoy their books plus improved work space. The computer lab features thirty desktop computers and a SMARTboard for the teacher to instruct what is being displayed on the computer screen.  Before the new lab, portable laptop computers were used in the classroom.  Battery charging time limited the number of hours per day students could use the computers hindering instruction.  The new lab can be utilized all day and is being used by all grade levels because it is so much more accessible. The new addition also provides space for the early childhood speech and language and a new set of handicapped accessible restroom. During this whole process (2010) the Stewart PTA completed a $40,000 playground improvement project for a new play structure on the playground.  The structure is ADA accessible and has a rubberized soft surface installed underneath.  As you can see Stewart has a rich history and we can’t wait to see what the next 48 years brings!  A big thanks to Kathleen West and Marlene Johnson for contributing so much to this article!

The Principals Serving Stewart School are:

            Dave Mendel           1966-67 to 1980-81

            Robert Walser         1981-82 to 1986-87

            Sophie Merrigan    1987-88 to 1988-89

            Kathleen West        1989-90 to 2002-2003

            Jerome Klimisch      2003-2004 to present


Stewart School Secretaries:

Naomi Somers

Linda Kunz

Sheri Johnson

Jennifer Satter

Melissa Rempfer

Melissa Cuka


Stewart School Custodians:

Pat Smith                  1966-1968

Jim Moses                 1968-2004

Brian Engebretsen 2004-Present


Stewart School Food Service Staff:

Joyce Graham

Mary Kirchenman

Deb Hausman


Stewart School Longtime Staff/Teachers:

Marsha Bertsch

Jane Bobzin

Blanche Craig

Joetta Ekeren

Patricia Ensenbach

Marilyn Erickson

Beverly Frohreich

Marlene Johnson

Sharon Koller

Nelva Kooistra

Velma Kuchta

Barbara Lingor

Mary Ellen Lowe

Muriel Seger

Joann Syrovatka

Jane Brown

Kathy Schanche


Stewart Counselors

Tim Witte

LaVonne Lorenzen

Andrea Wright


What happened in the year Stewart School was built (1966)!

Vietnam continued

Walt Disney died

The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles were the most popular groups

Gas was 32 cents

Average cost of a new car was $2,650

Average cost of new house $14,200

First episode of Star Trek

Dr. Suess “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” shown on CBS

Dr. Zhivago was the popular film for the year