In 1888, Dr. William Thompson donated a schoolhouse to Palmer Lake. It included grades 1-8 with only one teacher. There were 20-30 students. The school was in operation until 1934, when Palmer Lake Elementary was built. The old school house became a residence and is still standing at 275 S. Valley Road. Palmer Lake Elementary at 115 Upper Glenway. It also served grades 1-8.

The first school in Monument was a one-room log building. I am led to believe that it was the little building on Front Street, which now is Sew in Tune. In the 1880s, a three-room, white-frame building was built. There were three teachers for grades 1-8. There were several little one-room schools that served the farm and ranch children in the eastern parts of the district.

In 1917, Lewis School was built in Monument. The building still stands and is now called “Big Red.” It was named after Inez Johnson Lewis, who at one time was a teacher at Palmer Lake Elementary. She later became superintendent of schools in El Paso County. Mrs. Lewis’ purpose for the school was to provide high-school education to students who would otherwise have to go to Colorado Springs. Mrs. Lewis was instrumental in consolidating rural schools into one district. Palmer Lake District 5 and Lewis District 33 became Lewis-Palmer District 38 in 1948.

In 1957, a new high school was built just south of Big Red, which than became the junior high. I attended the junior high and then went on to Lewis-Palmer High School and graduated in 1971.

Lewis-Palmer Elementary was built in 1973, making it the second elementary school in the district. Palmer Lake Elementary was closed between 1980 and 1985, and all students went to Lewis-Palmer Elementary. It reopened in 1986 after it had gone through an extensive renovation. In 1992, a new cafeteria was built.

The high school and junior high served students until 1980 when, due to an increase of students in the district, it became necessary to build a bigger school. It was built on Higby Road. The old high school became the middle school and Big Red became the administration offices for District 38.

Kilmer Elementary was the third elementary school built in 1988. The old Pine Grove School was moved to the property and was restored and is used to help children to understand how it was in pioneer days.

A new middle school was opened on Woodmoor Drive in 1994. The old middle school was renovated and remodeled and became Grace Best Elementary. My son, Bruce, who started school at Kilmer and was bused there from our home in Monument, started second grade there. My daughter, Michelle, started kindergarten there. There were then able to walk to school.

On Nov. 3, 1988, Big Red was put on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The historical significance is that it was a symbol of “educational developments and advancements” in El Paso County. In 1908, Theodore Roosevelt formed the National Commission on Country Life, which addressed “the rural school problem.” Many rural people felt they didn’t want to lose the one-room school as it would take away the focus of the community.

Big Red also brought the community together, as it was a gathering place for events for the schoolchildren and the citizens. The gym was used for town meetings, as a movie theater and for church gatherings. Boys’ and girls’ clubs also met at the school. There is a wealth of information on the Historic Registry, including the architecture style of Big Red and how they remodeled the inside. They restored the exterior to look much as it did in the beginning.

You can also find out more information if you go to the Lewis-Palmer website, lewispalmer.org, where it lists the history and what is expected in the future for Big Red.

Linda Saulnier Case is a third-generation Monument resident. She enjoys researching and sharing about the history of the founding of Monument. Contact Linda with feedback and questions on Tri-Lakes life and history at case.358linda@gmail.com.

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