School stories: Cornelia Regional

Cooperative county education has always existed in Georgia.

Children in a border community might go across county lines for convenience of travel.

When Bridgeboro closed its high school in 1953, Worth County permitted a certain district to go to Doerun in Colquitt County, instead of making the long trek to Sylvester. A large controversy ensued a decade later when Lumber City High students refused to go to Telfair County when its doors closed, preferring to simply cross the river to go to Jeff Davis.

When entire county high school populations grew small, Georgia began the first of five multi-county high schools with Tri-County in 1975.

Tri-County, however, was not the first time a county was too small to support a high school population. Twenty years earlier, several school systems collaborated with others to educate older black students.

Cornelia Regional was the most involved of these, at one time being the high school for four counties: Habersham, White, Banks and Rabun.

Currently, it is unknown when Cornelia first became that base in northeast Georgia.

White County looks to have begun sending their older students there for 1953-54, right after its new black elementary school was completed.

Banks County announced its high school students would be attending Cornelia for the 1954-55 school year. Banks had previously sent high schoolers to Johntown, located in Commerce (and not a full high school), but when Johntown combined with Bryan in Jefferson, there wasn’t enough room.

Rabun County may have been using Cornelia even earlier.

A 1950 article in The Clayton Tribune describing each of the county’s schools had words about the single black school in the county, Ivy Hill.

“No opportunity is offered for a colored child to go above the seventh grade. It is our responsibility to send these children to high school. Last fall the County Board of Education offered to pay the expenses of two students who are away at high school, but since they were enrolled in a Church School in Athens, the State Dept. of Education ruled that payment could not be legally made. Next fall plans should be made to send these children to a school outside the County to the nearest place where facilities are offered.”

Banks moved in at a time Cornelia likely did not have much room.

Habersham County was in the midst of its school building project through the Minimum Foundation Program.

Bids were called for in March 1954 for a new complete school for what was then referred to as Cornelia Colored. The school would sit on 12 acres in the northern part of the city.

Work was completed for a September 5, 1955 opening.

Cornelia Regional

Cornelia Regional, 2012

Even with so many systems together, the total black high school attendance was said to be 91. Seventy-two Habersham children were in elementary grades and eight teachers made up the entire faculty.

In 1961-62, the average daily attendance was 74.

Cornelia Regional continued as a school until 1966 when students were integrated into their respective county high schools. The building was quite possibly never used again as a regular school. In recent years, it has hosted museum exhibits about its history.

Cornelia Regional

Side view of Cornelia Regional

Cornelia was too small to attempt football, but did have basketball. It mostly played area schools, including Cleveland before it consolidated with them. Cornelia made at least three appearances in the Georgia Interscholastic Association boys state tournament and at least one in the girls tourney.

Cornelia Regional

Long view of Cornelia Regional. The sections possibly were the elementary and high school divisions.

Sources: Banks County Journal, Sept. 2, 1954; Northeast Georgian, Jan. 28, 1954, March 4, 1954, Sept. 15, 1955; The Cleveland Courier, July 17, 1953; The Clayton Tribune, June 1, 1950; Georgia Education Statistics: Public High School Data (1961-62).

School Stories is a series of current-to fairly current photos of school buildings. Some are long abandoned, some are still in use. Most will be rural or small town schools. Information is provided by newspaper archives and editions of the Georgia Educational Directory.

School stories: Wilson (Ringgold)

Wilson (Ringgold)

A rear view of Ringgold’s Wilson High in 2013.

This was an all-grades school.

No, not the giant two-story building in the background. The one with the chimney. The one that resembles a small office.

This was Wilson High School, one of the smallest black high schools in Georgia.

Wilson opened in the building in September 1955. The history of black education in the preceding years was not well-publicized in the Catoosa County News.

From 1949-52, it was a two-teacher school. Teacher counts were not included again until 1956-57, when it had expanded up to three.

Wilson was not only quite small, it was the only school for African-Americans in the county. If any others had existed, they closed prior to the 1949-50 school year.

What sufficed as a school building prior to Wilson’s construction was not described in Catoosa County’s state survey, which was published in the newspaper January 3, 1952. It can be assumed that it was a frame building. A new building was in the works as soon as Catoosa revealed its improvement plans in 1953.

The Georgia Department of Education’s first attempt as a reasonably thorough list of black schools did not come until the 1956-57 school year. In that edition, Wilson was a 10-grade school. It was also listed as Ringgold Colored.

When exactly the Wilson name was applied to the school was unknown.

The Georgia Department of Education did not pick up the name in its directory until the 1959-60 school year and the first reference found in the Catoosa County News as Wilson was in October 1956.

The Educational Directory upgraded Wilson to 12 grades in 1957-58. It was listed as having four teachers in 1965-66, which may have been its final year as a school; Wilson is not in the 1966-67 directory.

Georgia Interscholastic Association records (housed by the Georgia High School Association) list Wilson’s average daily attendance at the high school level as 17 in 1959-60. If it still existed in 1966-67, Wilson’s ADA had increased to 22.

(Oddly, the Georgia Department of Education does not list Catoosa County as having a black high school in its 1961-62 publication, Public High School Data.)

Wilson’s existence as a high school was perhaps an odd one. Its ADA was one of the smallest of any public high school on either GIA region list.

It was not uncommon for counties with minuscule black populations in Georgia to bus school children to a neighboring district. Nearby Murray County was sending its high schoolers to Emery Street in Dalton – a county that also abutted Catoosa.

Eventually, Ringgold High grew around old Wilson. That school is the one in the background of the top photo. Perhaps surprisingly in the era of segregation, they were virtually neighbors after new schools opened in 1955.

Luckily, RHS had a use for the building.

Wilson is now the JROTC headquarters for Ringgold High. It’s a bit frightening that one department of a school is located in what was an entire grades 1-12 school.

Though a tornado came through in 2011 that damaged both Ringgold High and neighbor Ringgold Middle, Wilson still stands.

DSC02412 - Copy

Wilson is now a JROTC building. A careful examination of its walls show where windows were bricked over.

School Stories is a series of current-to fairly current photos of school buildings. Some are long abandoned, some are still in use. Most will be rural or small town schools. Information is provided by newspaper archives and editions of the Georgia Educational Directory.

School Stories: Good Hope-Peters

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The former Good Hope-Peters School in February 2010, located in southeast Walton County

The Minimum Foundation Program and State School Building Authority was a dual-purpose organization for Georgians: it enabled school systems to upgrade education and for Governor Herman Talmadge, it enabled school systems to upgrade education, hopefully enough to stave off integration.

When integration began sweeping the state, it meant that systems generally now had a bunch of buildings without a purpose. DSC01151Most attempted to incorporate their formerly all-black schools in some way, but for buildings in rural communities, those attempts were generally short-lived.

Talmadge’s grand scheme of warding off integration was already beginning to wear slightly thin by the time the new Good Hope-Peters school opened in the town of Good Hope in Walton County in 1958. A year earlier, Little Rock, Ark.’s, Central High had been the first blow to the deep south’s chances.

Good Hope-Peters had already existed in name, combining the black Good Hope and Peters schools at the start of the 1951-52 school term. The new school came via State School Building Authority funds, built for $164,000 and containing 12 classrooms, a library and a principal’s office.

An estimated 239 students were enrolled, according to the Sept. 3, 1958 Walton Tribune. It was an increase over the 150 from a year ago, due in part to students consolidating from the small Mount Enon and Bethany schools.

For the first year, the school held grades 1-10. Tenth grade was shipped to Carver High in Monroe in 1959-60. Ninth was dropped by 1963-64. Georgia Educational directories list the school as holding eight grades for the remainder of its days as Good Hope-Peters, but it appears that Walton County received a grant in 1966 for preschool; Good-Hope Peters was one of the sites listed to get a class.

Life at Good Hope-Peters came to an abrupt halt at the end of the 1967-68 school year. Walton planned a massive desegregation program. The initial plans, announced May 27, 1968, were to house K-5 at Good Hope-Peters and 6-8 at Good Hope (a white elementary) and operate them as one school.

However, Walton was told by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) the overall county plan was not completely acceptable. In the redraft, both Good Hope-Peters and Good Hope were eliminated as schools. Under its original purpose, Good Hope-Peters served 10 years.

The school then received a strange savior.

George Walton Academy, one of quite many private schools to open in Georgia in the late 1960s under the guise of a sudden need for quality education, DSC01149 took over both campuses in the fall of 1969. It is unknown if Good Hope-Peters was included from the start or not, but by the time George Walton opened a new building in late 1974, both Good Hope sites were operating.

After George Walton’s departure, Good Hope-Peters was used to educate special education students, in combination with Morgan County as the Walton-Morgan Training Center. The school is not listed in any Georgia Educational Directory and is unknown how many years the site was operational.

(Walton Tribune – Sept. 3, 1958; Sept. 9, 1959; April 13, 1966; May 29, 1968; July 3, 1968; Aug. 21, 1969; Nov. 14, 1974; July 6, 1976.)

School Stories is a series of current-to fairly current photos of schools buildings. Some are long abandoned, some are still in use. Most will be rural or small town schools. Information is provided by newspaper archives and editions of the Georgia Educational Directory.