One of the most iconic images of historic American education is that of the country schoolhouse. A one-room fixture, it represented education and it represented communities.
One-room schools are rare these days. Florida closed its last one, Duette Elementary, in 2016. Minnesota still has one, Angle Inlet, located in a section of the state only accessible by roads in Canada.
Georgia, generally being easily accessible and communities located close enough to towns of some size, began weeding theirs out as soon as possible. By 1960, they were all but extinct.
This is a list, as best is currently researched, as to what was built during the 1950s by the State School Building Authority.
The list is a complicated one. Some locally funded building projects are included, but only if they were built at the same time as the rest of the State School Building Authority projects. That means that Eastside Elementary, which opened in 1951 in Lumpkin County, is not credited as Lumpkin County’s building program completed in 1957. Lavonia’s black elementary is included as it was part of the larger Franklin County program.
Schools with an asterisk are buildings that were proposed, but unproven as to whether they actually went up.
Not all systems have been researched, or in the case of some, such as Bryan County, information about the building program has not been found.
Dr. B.D. Perry school opened in 1958 in Laurens County, six years after Laurens County’s school building program began. It opened two years after black students in eastern Laurens County were denied use of Brewton School.
Brewton School had been a white school building, but Laurens officials with state approval planned on remodeling it and enlarging it for use by black students. Brewton’s white students were going to be abandoning the building for the new East Laurens High, an all-grades building that opened in April 1956.
Despite Brewton’s updates being 90 percent complete, builders were forced to stop. Part of one wing was being built on private property. Local Brewtonians, who admitted they did not want black students in that school, now had their wish.
When East Laurens opened in April 1956, all school children from Brewton, plus all the high school students from Condor and Wilkes moved into the new building. Wilkes’ high school had combined with Brewton at the start of the 1955-56 school year, a consolidation known as Brewton-Wilkes High.
Laurens County was still in the middle of a building program and black schools were being erected at Dudley (Millville) and a few miles south of Dublin (Mary Fleming). With Brewton now vacated, work could also finish on the building there, which was being renovated and remodeled for a third all-grades black school.
The location of another white high school in the Rentz area had been debated some time, with one court case decided and its appeal hanging in the balance.
Rentz, however, was joined by a newer and bigger problem in Laurens County: Brewton.
The Minimum Foundation Program and the State School Building Authority are frequently referenced in this blog.
The combination of the two programs were among the biggest influences in education, along with, but not limited to, free textbooks, the Quality Basic Education Act and the train of technology in its various forms.
Georgia’s plans in the 1950s to streamline its education, to get the most bang for its bucks, changed the fabric of schools, especially at the high school level.
In the 1950s, schools consolidated at a rapid pace, into existing buildings that had enough room; into existing buildings with additions; or into completely new buildings because of a much larger student load and/or the inadequacy of the already existing buildings.
The Brewton School saga involved the third of these types of building projects. The State Board of Education and the Laurens County Board of Education decided to consolidate Brewton’s students into the new East Laurens school building.
But Brewton had a decent school building and no one wanted to see it go to waste. Officials planned on solving more consolidation with it, namely the consolidation of a section of Laurens County’s black students.
Many, many Georgia schools have been named for geography. The announcement that the soon-to-open Denmark High in Forsyth County was to be named for a person was a bit of a surprise. Few persons see their names on high school buildings here.
In the days of segregation, many schools were named for geography: Gray High, Tift County Industrial, Houston County Training, etc.
But there were many that weren’t, especially with new buildings opening in the 1950s.
George Washington Carver was a popular name for schools.