Robert H. Mitchell Elementary School

Sparks School
Robert Mitchell
First Sparks school with all the people in front
Robert Wiley Mitchell 1970
Jack's Carnival 1930
Mitchell School from RHM
Class of 1952-1953
RHM Floor
EMS entrance

The current Robert H. Mitchell Elementary School, at 1216 Prater Way, is the second school with that name to stand on the property. The previous structure, which opened in January 1906 as Sparks Grammar and High School, was the city’s first school. Its location on the north side of Prater Way was well removed from the busy Southern Pacific Railroad facilities yet within easy walking distance of the entire community.

Like the current building, the first structure was built of brick, but it contained two stories of classrooms and additional rooms in the basement. For classrooms along the south side on both the first and second floors, special doors were installed so that the space could be shut off into several private rooms or opened into one larger auditorium. Encased in a lofty tower, the 800-pound school bell summoned students from across town.

That school served all the community’s children until 1917, when a new high school was constructed on 15th Street, making the building on Prater Way the Grammar School. After construction of two more elementary schools and a junior high school, the Grammar School was renamed Robert H. Mitchell Elementary, for a popular educator and Sparks superintendent who had died suddenly in 1913.

Federal financial assistance arrived with the New Deal programs of the 1930s, and the community jumped at the opportunity to replace the building with something more modern, fireproof, and structurally sound. With partial funding from the Public Works Administration (PWA), the district hired architects Frederic DeLongchamps and George O’Brien to design a one-story brick structure. By the middle of September, 1938, the old school was completely demolished, with some of its materials saved for use in the new building.

Dedicated on May 6, 1939, the current L-shaped school, also named Robert H. Mitchell, contained fifteen classrooms, a nursery school, kindergarten, lunch room, offices, and a library. Its new auditorium featured a sloping floor with fixed seating, making it ideal for assemblies and performances of all kinds. The original linoleum floor of the nursery room, revealed during a remodel in the mid-1990s, featured trains, airplanes, and images from nursery rhymes. The school celebrated the building’s 75th anniversary in 2014.


Sparks native John Mayer remembers participating in Jack's Carnival as a child. The carnival and parade originally served as a fundraiser for the hot lunch program in the Sparks schools. Recorded by Alicia Barber.