History of Palos 118
History of Palos School District 118
Once part of a group of six one-room school houses that served about 200 students who lived in Palos Township, the original District 118 one-room school was located on a 1-acre parcel at 119th Street and 88th Ave., near where the District’s Central Offices still reside today. The original land was donated by Richard C. McLaughry in 1858 with a second room added to the structure in 1909.
In 1928, the Palos 118 Central School building was constructed west of the original school which included three classrooms. In 1949, Districts 118, 119, and 120 consolidated to form the Consolidated School District 118 with another five classrooms added in 1956. At the time, each room contained two grade levels. Eighth graders seeking to go on to high school had a choice of attending Lyons Township High School, Orland High School, or a school of their choice in the City of Chicago.
The school day back in the 1900s set the template for today’s school schedule. Back then, The District 118 school day began at 9 a.m. and ended at 3:30 to allow time for students to complete chores at home before nightfall. The agrarian nature of life back then also meant that class sizes varied from year to year depending on whether children were needed at home to help with the operation of family farms. In addition to lessons in spelling, geography, reading, and math, students also learned how to grow crop staples like corn. While students today have become accustomed to having a personal electronic device or laptop as a constant in their school day, back then paper and books were too expensive and much of students’ schoolwork was completed on pieces of slate with chalk.
Today, Palos Consolidated School District 118 serves students from preschool to grade eight in two elementary school buildings, Palos East and West, and one middle school, Palos South. The District boundaries encompass Palos Park, Palos Heights, the southern part of Palos Hills, as well as some unincorporated parts of Cook County. Enrollment for the 2021-22 school year was 2,047 students. Today’s eighth grade graduates continue their high school studies in Consolidated High School District 230 either at Amos Alonzo Stagg or Carl Sandburg High Schools.
From its earliest days, Palos School District 118 has had a reputation for providing a top tier education for its students, consistently performing among the top school districts in the State of Illinois. U.S. News & World Reports has ranked its schools among the top elementary and middle schools in Illinois in 2021 with Palos South Middle School ranked at #83 out of 1,243 other middle schools in the State of Illinois and earning high marks for reading and math proficiency. Both of the District’s elementary schools ranked in the top 200 in the state, with Palos West Elementary positioned at #129, and Palos East Elementary at #170 out of 2,038 elementary schools in Illinois with both ranking high in reading and math performance.
In September 2022, Palos West Elementary was named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, the first such national recognition for the District in its 160-year history.
Prominent staff and alumni from Palos School District 118 include Catherine McClaughry, whose family donated the land where the District’s first school building was constructed on 119th Street. She began teaching in the District in 1889 and would later go on to become District Superintendent of Schools for Southern Cook County in 1915 before her retirement in 1942. Olympic hockey player Kendall Coyne Schofield attended Palos West Elementary and Palos South Middle School in the 1990’s and has since gone on to play on the gold medal winning U.S.A. Hockey Team in 2018, and on Olympic teams that won the silver medal in 2014, and 2022. She’s also served in roles for the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team.
Special thanks to the Palos Historical Society and head curator Maria Rogers for their generous donation of access to historical records, documents, and photos from their archive. Learn more about Palos history by contacting the Palos Historical Society to make an appointment. Palos historical room is located inside the Palos Park Library, 12332 Forest Glen Blvd.