Welcome to Dennis Lab School!
Dennis Lab School is the oldest and most historic school in Decatur Public Schools District #61. Dennis is a neighborhood school, serving students in Kindergarten through 8th grade on the central and west side of Decatur. It is with pride that Dennis continues to educate students whose parents and grandparents also attended Dennis.
At the turn of the 19th century, Forest Grove, a one-room schoolhouse, stood at the present Dennis Mosaic Campus location. In the fall of 1910, the first wing of the current Dennis Lab School Mosaic Campus building opened with three classroom teachers. By 1955 and two additions later, Dennis was serving upwards of 600 students in the growing West End of Decatur. Through three building additions, the Mosaic Campus remains the oldest school building presently utilized by District #61.
In the fall of 2020, Dennis Lab School expanded yet again and became a dual-campus facility. The Mosaic Campus is the original building at 1499 W. Main Street. The name was chosen because of the large mosaic butterfly that graces the Wood Street entrance. The Kaleidoscope Campus is located at 520 W. Wood Street, in the former Mary W. French Academy Building. The Kaleidoscope name was chosen because a group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope. The Mosaic Campus houses 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, while the Kaleidoscope Campus houses Kindergarten, 1st, 4th, and 5th grades.
Much thought and consideration went into the decision of where each grade would be based in the new dual-campus configuration. At Dennis Lab School, we value mentorship and this configuration allows our older students to mentor our younger students. We also want all of our students to feel that they are DENNIS. At no point do we ever want to be viewed as two different schools. Together we are better!
For more than a decade, Dennis Lab School has had strong partnerships and collaboration with Millikin University. The close proximity of Dennis to the Millikin campus provides a mutually benefiting relationship, as many college students assist through Student Teaching, Field Experiences, Internships, Service-Learning Projects, or simply volunteering to experience the rewards of helping a child learn a skill. This partnership and collaboration has extended to include many new business partners since Dennis became a dual-campus. Many students and teachers at the Kaleidoscope Campus work with businesses and organizations to offer students experiences and learning opportunities in our vibrant downtown business district.
Regular Day: 8:25 a.m. - 2:45 p.m.
Half Day: 8:25 a.m. - 11:25 a.m.
Half Day Dates for 2023-24 School Year
- September 13, 2023
- October 11, 2023
- November 15, 2023
- December 13, 2023
- January 24, 2024
- February 14, 2024
- March 13, 2024
- April 24, 2024
The mission of Dennis Lab School, in affiliation with university and community partners, is:
- To facilitate a shared responsibility of learning among staff, students, families and community partners in an innovative and collaborative culture;
- To integrate best practices of educational theory and instructional methods that advance excellence in teaching and learning;
- To build community partnerships that allow learning to extend outside of the classroom and bring the community and the world into our school; and
- To meet and exceed local, state and federal standards of learning while providing a holistic education that allows students to excel in a changing world.
About Our Namesake
The year 2010 marked the 100th anniversary of the founding of Dennis School and was celebrated with an open house at the school. The Westender newsletter featured a series of articles about Mr. Dennis and his legacy. The first article focused on Mr. Dennis and his family:
Andrew Dennis was born in Greencastle, PA in 1820. His family moved to Ohio, where Andrew continued his education while assisting his father on their farm. Andrew had a brother living in Macon County who wrote to Andrew in 1850 encouraging him to move there. Andrew moved to Macon County in 1852 and worked with his brother in the plastering trade for a number of years. As Andrew accumulated money, he purchased large tracts of land south of the old Macon County Fairgrounds (later Fairview Park) extending south to Decatur Street and beyond in some places. His property was west of Decatur's city limits during his entire lifetime. Mr. Dennis was successful in his farming and other endeavors.
In 1854, Andrew Dennis married Matilda Baker, whose parents, William and Marilla Baker, came to Macon County in 1828 — a year before the town of Decatur was established in 1829. The Bakers were among the first settlers in Macon County. They settled in Long Creek Township in what is now known as Baker Woods near the (later) North Fork Church.
Mr. and Mrs. Dennis had four children. Their daughter Maggie became the wife of Rev. Abner Cobb who ended up owning all of Andrew Dennis' property north of West Main Street sometime after 1891. The Cobb parcel was roughly bounded by what are today Fairview Park, Park Place, West Main and Dennis Avenue. Daughter Mary Dennis died at the age of 21, and son Ira Dennis died in infancy. Son Charles Dennis attended grade school in a one-room schoolhouse located where the present Dennis School was later built. At Decatur High School, Charles' favorite teachers included E. A. Gastman and Mary W. French. Later, Charles moved to Chicago to become the editor of the Chicago Daily News.
As a result of his energy and capable business management, Andrew's farm became valuable with fields yielding excellent crops. He added good buildings and made other improvements that indicated his progressive spirit. He served as county commissioner for a short time. Those who knew him had warm regards for his sterling character. The Dennis family became members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
After Andrew's death in 1893, Matilda switched to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Decatur, since two of her brothers were Presbyterian ministers. In 1895, Mrs. Dennis left the farm and moved to 820 N. Union Street next door to her sister. She retained ownership of the rich tract of 141 acres on which she and her family had resided. Matilda passed away in 1910. Both Andrew and Matilda are buried in Decatur's Greenwood Cemetery.