Castelar Elementary, 2316 S. 18 St., first opened in 1886, was originally spelled Castellar after a Spanish statesman, and was located on the southeast corner of the present playground.
The three-story, twelve-room building had wooden sidewalks, no lights and platforms in each room for the teacher’s desks. A basement was later added to house restrooms for students and staff. Two wooden annexes were added to accommodate the expanded enrollment and the only playground was located on east side of 18th and Martha.
In 1912, a new building was constructed at a cost of $82,000 and contained twenty-one classrooms. Included were a branch public library room for the principal, two manual training rooms, fourteen regular classrooms, a public assembly room, lunchroom and a teacher’s restroom. The heating, ventilation and lighting systems were the best available at the time making it possible to maintain a uniform temperature in all the rooms. Peak enrollment at the school was 1,400.
A renovation occurred to the building in 1951 and in 1965 an addition was added to the building. Castelar served kindergarten through eighth graders until 1964 when the two upper grade levels were moved to Bancroft Jr. High.
From 1953 to 1978, former principal, Viola Taylor annually produced and wrote an original Christmas play in which every student had a part.
The building served as an elementary until 1984 when it officially closed its doors. According to a World Herald report, “ . . .pupils exchanged letters, art and other items with pupils at their new school.” An era had ended and Castelar would now serve the OPS school district as Wilson Alternative School.
Castelar re-opened its doors in August of 1999 to 333 neighborhood students. The following year, Castelar staff and students moved to the Mills building on north 30th Street, where it remained for two years while the building underwent major renovations to upgrade existing classrooms and add a new wing on the south side of the building. Castelar now has a total of 31 classrooms, including a new library and two kindergarten rooms, 52 certified staff, 24 paraprofessionals, 8 support staff and an official student enrollment of 630.
Castelar’s mascot is the Cardinal and its school colors are red and white.Information and photos courtesy of the Omaha Public School Archives Collection