Early Covington County schools were numerous

Published 12:07 am Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Spring Hill School #2 was mentioned in last week’s column in reference to the building, after not being used any longer, being deeded to the Oakey Ridge Baptist Church. This one-room school was representative of the many small ones that existed throughout Covington County. As each community was settled, the parents wanted a school located near enough for their children to walk to it.

To quote historian Wyley D. Ward, “There were at least 150 white schools and 35 black schools in Covington County between 1821 and 2000.” Fortunately, most of the existing one-room schools serving white children between 1900 and 1930 were photographed, but few of these have been preserved. (If you possibly have a copy of one of these, please contact this writer and allow it to be copied for placement in appropriate historical collections.)

To understand the existence of so many small schools and appreciate the growth of the educational system in this rural county, it should be helpful to review some of the county schools’ history during the period of time in which the Spring Hill Schools were operated.

In 1903, a new board known as Covington County Public School Redistricting Board was appointed. The group divided the county into 79 school districts with as much consideration as possible being given to existing schools. Also in the same year, a special provision was made through the 1903 Public School Act to allow any school district in the state which had a system of graded schools offered free to the children of that district to increase its number of trustees from three to five members. The board of trustees for each district was given complete control of the public schools in its district as long as all reports required by law were submitted to the county’s board of education.

There are records listing those schools that existed after 1904. During that year, three trustees were elected for each of the 79 districts with the exception of Andalusia City, which had five trustees appointed by the mayor and council. While these trustees had the management of the schools in their district, they also fell under the control of the Covington County Board of Education.

It was impossible to immediately have one school in each district ready to serve all the students, so some of the former schools continued to function until the new buildings for the districts could be constructed. As the new schools were built, the older ones were gradually being discontinued. In 1904, when these districts were formed, there were at least 20 rural county schools. There was considerable confusion with the new districts and other guidelines. In 1907, the number of school districts in the county had increased to 96. In 1922, there were 92 rural white schools in the county with 53 of those being owned by the state and having two classrooms. The 39 that were owned by the communities would soon be eliminated. The two Spring Hill Schools would be two of these, and they were closed in 1927.

In next week’s column, the information known about these schools will be presented. Also, a photo of the Spring Hill School #1 with its teacher and students circa 1915 will be shown.

Sources for this writing were Oakey Ridge Church records and Wyley D. Ward’s book, History of Public Schools, Covington County, Alabama.

Anyone who might have additional information on either Spring Hill School #1 or Spring Hill School #2 is requested to immediately contact Curtis Thomasson at 20357 Blake Pruitt Road, Andalusia, AL 36420; call 334-222-6467; or e-mail cthomasson@centurytel.net. This is needed for next week’s column.