The first school in Niles opened in 1838 at the intersection of today's Touhy and Harlem. According to the Niles Historical Society, there were only four students in that one-room schoolhouse. A few years later, a settler provided a plot of land near Milwaukee and Harlem Avenues for a new school. Historical documents indicate the “new schoolhouse” was built for only $25. By 1884 a much larger building was rebuilt on the site to make room for the 65 students that attended.

In 1915 Illinois school districts changed their numerical designations, and Niles District 71 was created. A two-story four-room brick building was built in 1927, incorporating the previous buildings where the original Niles Elementary School stood. Additions to the building were made in 1938, 1952 and 1955.

In 1965 Niles Elementary School North was opened by Superintendent Clarence E. Culver. This marked the first time the district was split into two school buildings. North school was renamed "Clarence E. Culver School" in honor of the former superintendent in the mid-1980s.   In 1998 all the students were brought back together in a single building at the renovated Culver School, and South School closed.

Clarence E. Culver School now serves more than 550 students, just a few miles from the original one-room school house of the 1800s.