Omaha Public Schools History

  • Omaha Public Schools was founded in 1859 as the first public school system in Douglas County, Nebraska. Two years prior to its opening, voters elected the first school board in 1857. Howard Kennedy was named the first Superintendent of Omaha Public Schools. The school district opened with four schools and approximately 450 students. Today, the district has grown to more than 53,000 students served in 95 schools.

    Over the years, the Omaha community has been supportive of high-quality facilities. They have regularly passed bond issues since the first one in 1871. The bond issues were used to maintain schools and build new schools for growing enrollment.

    In 1923, Technical High School opened in Omaha. It was the largest high school west of Chicago at the time. It was so highly sought after that it was filled by opening day with nearly 3,000 students. The school closed in 1984 and was remodeled as the Teacher Administrative Center (TAC), which opened in 1989. The Teacher Administrative Center is now home to district offices, teacher meeting rooms, the Career Center and the Omaha Virtual School.

    Throughout our history, Omaha Public Schools has been at the forefront of innovative educational opportunities. By 1943, our district implemented kindergarten in all elementary schools, and by 1962, all schools had libraries at a time where 25 percent of districts nationwide could say the same.

    Former second lady Mrs. Muriel Humphrey, wife of then-vice president Hubert Humphrey, came to Omaha in 1965 to applaud the opening of Operation Head Start as a full-time program within the Omaha Public Schools.

    In 1969, assistant superintendent Dr. Craig Fullerton began the KIOS radio station to advance communication skills and electronic information. The station continues to broadcast from the TAC building as an NPR affiliate. 

    Our district began a partnership with the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo in 1996 to create the Zoo Academy, which provides an additional opportunity for students to develop their STEM skills. In 2011, Burke High launched its aviation program and flight simulator, providing students with real-world experience to pursue aviation as a lifelong career.

    Omaha Public Schools opened the first-of-its-kind Virtual School in Nebraska in 2017. This innovative education option offers K-12 students a blended learning model with lessons both remotely and in person. Omaha Virtual School celebrated its first graduating class in 2021.

    Over the years, Omaha Public Schools students and staff have won countless local, regional and national awards. A number of esteemed community leaders, philanthropists, legislators, athletes, artists, performers, educators and Nobel Prize winners are proud graduates of our district.

    In 2019-2020, Omaha Public Schools celebrated 160 years. A mural was designed at the entrance of the Teacher Administrative Center to capture moments of history and the impacts from throughout the past 160 years. To learn more about our district's rich history and the making of the mural, visit the mural website. You can also see the full mural in person at the TAC building.

    Panoramic view of mural featuring historical figures and moments

    Panoramic view of historical moments and individuals important to Omaha Public Schools