DeSoto, Texas was settled in the 1840s. For the first few years, various home housed both schoolrooms and church services. In the early 1850s, a combination school-church was built – a simple log cabin with a fireplace at one end. This building marked the beginning of the DeSoto School System. Unfortunately, within a few years this building burned, so students returned to meeting in neighbors' homes.
Around 1860, the community built a frame house for school and for church on land donated by Christopher Heath and Allan Q. Nance. This combination school/church was called ‘Salem’ after a church in Illinois formerly attended by some of the settlers. Several years later, it was decided to move the structure nearer the center of town. It took two days to make the move and required sixteen large horses.
Sometime around 1886, the neighbors selected a committee to make plans and to finance a new school building. A frame school house with two rooms off a central hall and two porches was built near the center of town adjacent to the town’s artesian well. The men on the committee however failed to collect the money they had put into the building so they sold the structure to the teacher, Mr. Walker. This arrangement proved unsatisfactory, and the committee raised the money and bought the school back. Around 1890, a second story of two more rooms was added to the structure. This structure served until 1913, when a new red brick, two-story building was erected where the present administration building now stands. The new building was financed by a bond issue.
In 1917, there were only ten grades in the school. In 1918, another grade was added, and DeSoto organized its first football team. The state election in 1917 which made William Pettus Hobby governor (1917-1920) also passed a constitutional amendment providing free textbooks for students of Texas schools.
For a time, DeSoto, Cedar Hill, Duncanville, and Wheatland transferred their high school students to Lancaster until increased scholastics and enrollment allowed them to offer more upper level courses. DeSoto sent all high school students in 1928-29 to Lancaster. In the fall of 1929, Cedar Hill sent juniors and seniors. Duncanville sent most of their seniors and Wheatland sent almost all of their high school students. By 1929, there were sixty students from outside the Lancaster district, including some from Ovilla, Ferris, and Wilmer-Hutchins. In 1935, Cedar Hill and Duncanville were approved for upper level class by the state and their high school students returned. DeSoto added grades 9-12 a year at a time, and the last time DeSoto seniors were in Lancaster High School was several years later.
In 1939-40, Dallas County Schools were considering adopting the 12-grade system. Dr. Joe P. Harris, Dallas County Superintendent, declared all other county schools would need to adopt it as well because approximately 500 students interchanged between Dallas and surrounding county schools each year. The 12-grade system was adopted and implemented in 1941. The graduates of 1955 were the first Texas students who had been in school for twelve years.
By this time, DeSoto had built several school buildings at 200 E. Belt Line Road including the first part that was built in 1956 as a new high school. DeSoto had its first graduating class in the 12-grade system that year with eleven seniors in the graduating class. Irvin T. Jones was the DeSoto High School Principal from 1956 to 1959.
In 1959, a new high school was built directly south of the existing building on the same property. John J. Voelkle was the principal at the new facility and continued until 1969.
In 1962, a new high school was constructed down the road at 600 E. Belt Line Road. Voelkle and his staff, along with district administration, moved into the new facility, while the elementary, intermediate, and junior high school students grew into the buildings at 200 E. Belt Line Rd.
As the district enrollment continued to grow, so did the need for facilities. In 1964, Ruby Young Elementary was built. Formally dedicated on Sunday, December 13, 1964, it honors Miss Young who had taught in the DeSoto schools since receiving her teaching certificate in 1931.
In 1970, Northside Elementary was built as an open concept school with wide open areas and no walls separating the learning areas in each grade. Principal John Voelkle served as the leader for the first nine years.
And in 1976, DeSoto High School opened on Eagle Drive. The school is located on a portion of land that was homesteaded by Crawford Trees, Sr. He had come to Dallas County in 1844 before he married Anna Kimball in 1946 and moved to DeSoto. Their marriage license was documented as the first marriage license issued in Dallas County. The school had 102 classrooms with an estimated capacity of 2,300 students.
The former high school on Belt Line became DeSoto Junior High in 1976.
In 1977, another addition was added to the 200 E. Belt Line complex – called the Belt Line School. The three buildings in the middle were used as a middle school. In 1978, Amber Terrace Intermediate was built with 34 classrooms, 825 student capacity, which relocated the 5 th and 6 th graders to Amber Terrace and the 7-9 th graders to DeSoto Junior High. In 1979, Belt Line Elementary School was established in the buildings at 200 E. Belt Line Road. By this time, district administration had also relocated to parts of the vacated buildings.
A second building boom came in the late 1980s with four new schools opening in two years. In 1986, The Meadows Intermediate opened for 5-6 th graders with 29 classrooms and capacity for 550 students. The school was awarded the ‘Citation of Honor’ by the Texas Association of School Boards, Texas Association of School Administrators, and the Texas Society of Architects.
In 1987, both Cockrell Hill Elementary and DeSoto West Junior High opened to serve students on the growing west side of town. Cockrell Hill had 32 classrooms for 500 students and West had 34 classrooms for 550 students.
In 1988, Frank D. Moates Elementary, honoring the district superintendent from 1974 to 1990, opened with 31 classrooms to serve 500 students in the Glenn Heights section of DeSoto ISD. Before his tenure as superintendent, Moates had been a coach, teacher, counselor, and assistant superintendent.
In 1997, DeSoto Freshman Campus opened to house ninth-graders in their own school that is uniquely connected to DeSoto High School. This allows for students to opt for some classes offered only at DHS, shared library services, as well as choir and band halls and athletic facilities. The facility was paid for through the 1994 Bond Project for $29 million. It also included many renovations at other campuses such as additions at Moates, The Meadows, and East Jr. High.
The 2001 Bond Project added $38 million more in construction and renovations including Woodridge Elementary which opened in 2003. Many campuses received kitchen upgrades as well as expansions at West Jr. High and Cockrell Hill Elementary. A fiberoptic infrastructure was also placed throughout the district for enhanced technological learning. After Woodridge opened, Belt Line Elementary was reconfigured and used for DeSoto ISD administration.
In 2004, another $35 million was approved for further enhancements, land purchases for future growth, an expansion at Amber Terrace Intermediate, and the construction of the Ben Dial Athletic Complex which included expanded stadium seating, press box, field house renovations, concessions, and locker rooms.
In 2005, as growth continued at approximately 500 students per year, DeSoto ISD passed a $116 million Bond Package that included a new middle school, new elementary, grades 9-12 expansion, renovations at DHS, an expansion at Ruby Young, more land purchases, and technology enhancements.
Curtistene S. McCowan Middle School opened in 2007 and brought major organizational changes to DeSoto ISD. The existing intermediates – Amber Terrace and The Meadows – would be modified into elementaries, and those two along with the existing five elementaries, would now include grade 5. The two junior highs – East and West – would convert to middle schools along with McCowan and have grades 6-8. DeSoto ISD now had seven elementary schools, three middle schools, a freshman campus, and high school.
In 2011, DeSoto ISD broke ground on the Gr. 9-12 expansion – adding over 165,000 square feet of classroom and practical learning areas to the campus. DeSoto High School College and Career Academies are unique in that ALL students have the opportunity to earn college credit and explore potential careers without losing the traditional high school experiences and extra-curricular opportunities!
Students can choose from one of five College and Career Academies at DeSoto High School:
Arts and Performance Academy
Business and Technology Academy
Health and Science Academy
With potential career interests ranging from veterinarian, radio broadcaster, fashion designer, accountant, pilot, chef, businessman or physician, the College and Career Academies guide students into a program of study in that area of interest to help them prepare for their future and earn college credit at the same time.
Students’ interests are driving the curriculum. Each academy will be held in a designated campus section. Expansion, attached to the existing facility, is funded by the $20 million allocated in the 2005 bond program.