About Dennis Elementary School
At the turn of the 19th century, Forest Grove a one-room schoolhouse, stood at the present Dennis School location. In the fall of 1910, the first wing of Dennis School opened with three classroom teachers. By 1955 and two additions later, Dennis was serving upwards of 600 students for the growing West-End of Decatur.
Many changes have taken place from 1955 through 2020 for Decatur, as well as Dennis School. For many years, Dennis was considered a “neighborhood” school, serving the nearby children of the “West-End”. The maturing neighborhood, and continued expansion of Millikin University has required the Dennis School boundaries to continue eastward to route 51. It is with pride though, that Dennis School had served local students whose parents and grandparents have attended Dennis. Through three building additions, Dennis remains the oldest school building presently utilized by D.P.S. # 61. One hundred plus years and thousands of students have worked their wear on the older sections. Through a major renovation project, the mosaic tile entry, the craftsmanship of the woodwork, and unique artifacts were preserved, reflecting a special warmth and character. It is often remarked, “If these walls could talk”! Dennis School has maintained a large collection of photographs reflecting the past 100+ years, and looks forward to planning for the upcoming 125-year anniversary.
Presently, Dennis School serves over 600 students in Pre-K through eighth grade. Students at Dennis have the opportunity to participate in Music, Physical Education, and Library. Every student at Dennis Lab School has an iPad with internet access. Dennis also provides opportunities for students to participate in honor choir, band, orchestra, cross country, basketball, volleyball, science club, math club, art, Lego League, Garden Club and Student Senate.
The Dennis School Parent Co-op supports student enrichment, special events, donates educational resources, and coordinates parent volunteer initiatives.
In the fall of 2012, the new Dennis Lab School started its first official year with the collaboration of 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 in helping a child learn a skill.
In the fall of 2020, Dennis Lab School expanded yet again and moved to a two-campus facility. The Mosaic campus, is the original building at 1499 W. Main Street. Mosaic was chosen because of the large mosaic butterfly that graces the Wood Street entrance. The Kaleidoscope campus is located at 520 W. Wood St., the former Mary W. French Academy Building. Interestingly, as you will read below, one of Charles Dennis’ favorite high school teachers was Mary W. French! 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. The Kaleidoscope campus houses pre-K, kindergarten, 1st, 4th, and 5th grades. At Dennis we value mentorship and this configuration allows our older students to mentor the younger students.
Andrew Dennis and His West End Legacy - Article from the "Westender"
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 here. Andrew moved to Macon County in 1852 and worked with his brother in the plastering trade for a number 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 Ave. 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 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 he 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.