Children of pioneering families in the area who wanted to go to school, had to attend a rural institution known as Hayden’s school, north of the existing town. Usually, about 20 children attended this school. However, with the coming of railroad employees children to the area, the one-room school building was moved closer to the rapidly growing city in 1887.
In the area where Marceline High School is today, a large brick school building was constructed and opened in 1894. It was named Central School. When it opened, it was thought that Central School would be sufficient to satisfy Marceline’s educational needs for every school grade for all time. However, with Marceline’s phenomenal growth that followed, within twenty years of opening Central School had become very overcrowded.
A new brick elementary school was built where Prenger Foods now stands. It was called Park School, after the park area on which the school was built. It opened for school children in the fall of 1908. Starting school at this time was a 7-year-old Walt Disney.
Elias Disney thought it would be more convenient for Walt to wait until his sister Ruth was old enough for school, so Walt didn’t go to school until he was seven. By that time, Flora had already taught Walt how to read. Park school was a 2-story brick building with 200 students. Walt later said that he loved going to that school, though the only downside was having a younger sister follow him around.
Park school had a long and valuable life serving the community, but by the 1950s building fire safety had become a concern. Park school held its last school term in 1959 and was torn down, brick by brick, in 1960. It was replaced by the new Walt Disney Elementary School.
When Walt came back to Marceline for the Walt Disney Swimming Pool dedication in 1956, Walt and Roy visited the old Park school before it was torn down. Walt found his school desk from when he attended school there. As he squeezed behind his desk, he said to those around him, “I remember carving W-D once, but I forgot that I had carved it twice”. That very desk is now on permanent display at the Walt Disney Hometown Museum.