Haleyville Schools History

By: Billie Fortenberry

Copied by Joyce Farris from the NWA Centennial Edition newspaper, published May 8, 1989

The first public school dates back to about 1889. The little one room school, located in an old house on Byler Road (main street) was about half the size of a classroom in the 1908 Grammar School, according to an article in the May 5, 1921 Haleyville Journal. The school stood on the site of the present Elliott’s True Value Hardware and years ago Israel’s Barber Shop. Miss Bell Phillips, a sister of Mrs. C. L. Haley, whose husband was one of the founders of Haleyville, was the first teacher. Most of the schools in those early days were in session about two or three months each year.

The Highland Methodist Episcopal Church, near Hillcrest Cemetery, served as our next school with a Mrs. Little as teacher. Classes were later moved to the Church of Christ building on 17th Street, near the former W. D. Fields home and the present Mineral Springs Housing Development.

Another move was necessary in those early years, probably in the late 1890s when classes were moved to the Curtis Building on Byler Road, which is the present site of the Alabama Power Company. According to a copy of a letter written on Haleyville High stationary, the school was there in 1901 with Robert L. Reeves as principal.

In 1908 during the administration of Jim Jack Curtis, a two-story school was completed on the present site of Dobbs Lumber Company, across from the First Baptist Church. This building which housed the elementary and high schools was erected from proceeds of a tax on the whiskey dispensary and subscriptions by private citizens. The approximate cost was $15,000. The school began its first year in the middle of December with Mr. J. M. Crowell as principal. In 1910, the first graduates to receive their diplomas were: Misses Ada Drake, Effie Drake, Julia Howell and Daisy Crowell. A three room annex was added to the north side of the building in 1917 (June 21, 1917, Haleyville Journal) because "the building was not large enough to accommodate the school last year, and with compulsory attendance in force next year (1918) it would be an absolute impossibility to house the children in present the building."

A small neighborhood school was started in 1922 at the Nazarene Church on the present location of Rocky Ravine Park. Miss Ava McNutt (Gaskin) and Mrs. Frances Rutland were the teachers.

The South Haleyville Elementary School was constructed in 1923 near the Church of Christ with classes beginning in the fall. The small children living in the southern part of Haleyville could not walk the distance to Central Grammar School so the energetic citizens got busy, built a good school and deeded it to the city. It was a two-teacher school with the first four grades.

In 1922 the Methodist Northwest High School was built, the name was changed to J. O. Haynes School in 1924. It was located on the corner of 9th Avenue North and 28th Street across from the C. J. Lovvorn home and the property now owned by Mack Batchelor. From 1922 until 1927 both high schools were in operation.

Because of financial problems the J. O. Haynes School was sold in 1927, to the city of Haleyville and renamed Haleyville High School. The town council purchased the school building, its equipment, the library building, the graded ball field and about eight acres of land adjoining the school for $11,500.

After remodeling the old building, the name was changed to the Central Grammar School. This was the first time in the history of our schools that the elementary and high school students were separated.

A school for the black children was opened in 1934 at the Words Chapel – Methodist Episcopal Church, west of the North Alabama Railroad.

In 1936 –37 a new high school building was constructed on the Flack property, at a cost of $67,000. (The site of the present 21st street Elementary School). The J. O. Haynes High School was sold to C. J. Lovvern and two years later on April 28, 1939, the empty building burned.

A new home economics and agriculture building was added to the high school in 1939. A lunchroom was opened in 1941 in the basement of that building.

Also in 1939 the long –awaited present 14th Avenue Elementary School was constructed east of the football field on the same parcel of land with the high school. The cost of the building was divided between the city of Haleyville and the county Board of Education at an estimated cost of $30,000.

Disaster struck on February 26, 1942 when the 6-year old high school was totally destroyed by fire. Classes were resumed immediately in the Baptist and Methodist churches. It was replaced the same year with substantially the same building with two extra classrooms; however, because of World War 11, the gymnasium-auditorium was not rebuilt for several years.

In 1950 two additional classrooms were added to the elementary school building and a cafeteria was built for the use of both schools.

A new library was added to the high school in 1953. Offices, showers and dressing rooms were added underneath for the athletic department.

A band room was constructed in 1954, and four more classrooms were added to the elementary school. The old library was converted into a class room.

In 1963 the present Haleyville High School was constructed on a 9.8 acres

Campus on 20th Street East. Gov. George Wallace was here to dedicate the new facility on November 22, 1963. While being honored at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, news came that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas. It was a historical day and the flag flew at half-staff, the first time raised on the new campus.

Beginning their second semester in the new building, the class of 1964 had the honor of being the first class to graduate in this new school. At this time the sixth, seventh and eighth grades were moved to the old school building and became the Junior High School. Constructed later was the gymnasium in 1965, now valued at over $1 million.

Added at the new campus in 1967 was the band room and class room addition, the seventh and eighth grade building and the Central Administrative Office Building.

Moving the classes of the fourth, fifth and sixth grades into the Junior High Building, the name was changed to the 21st Street Elementary School.

The Haleyville Area Vocational Center was built in 1973 consisting of a five building complex.

This campus has received two national awards for excellence by the American Association of School Administrations and also by the National School Boards Association.

On Wednesday, April 30, 1986 the 21st Street Elementary School was destroyed by fire leaving approximately 450 students without classrooms. A firewall saved much of the schools large library. Mobile classroom units were set up as temporary quarters until a new school could be constructed.

On April 6, 1988 a ground breaking ceremony launched the construction of a five million K through 6 elementary school complex on the 43 acre site across from the high school. August 1, 1989 is the expected date for completion.