The Mather School is the oldest free public elementary school in North America. The school is located in historic Dorchester, Massachusetts and was named after Richard Mather, an English-born American Congregational minister who emigrated to Boston and settled in Dorchester in 1635. The first building, established in 1639, was a one room schoolhouse, where all grades shared a single classroom and teacher. Students who lived too far away to walk to school would either ride a horse or take a horse drawn bus, called a kid-hack! The original schoolhouse served until 1694, when a contract was made to build a house twenty feet long and nineteen feet wide, with a ground floor, a chamber above, a flight of stairs, and a chimney. The successor of this first school is where today’s Mather School is located at Meeting House Hill. The old Mather School was located on the same site where the fire station is now.
This photograph shows the Mather School -- scanned from the article “Modern School Architecture” in the Architectural Review ca. 1910. The school was designed by architects Cram, Goodhue & Ferguson. The school was certified as being practically complete on February 10, 1905 and was occupied for school purposes on March 31,1905.
The Mather currently serves 616 students in grades K1-5. Mather students have the following characteristics:
38% Black (Cape Verdean, Caribbean, African American)
31% Asian (Vietnamese)
5% Mixed / Other
15% receive Special Education Services
38% are Limited English Proficiency
43% of whom the First Language is not English
84% are Low Income