New Oneida Schools
— A Dream Come True
(EDITOR’S NOTE — H. Clay Smith’s Dusty Bits of the Forgotten Past was a valuable source of information for this article. Thanks is expressed to the Scott County Historical Society for permission to use this information.)
From 1901 to 1920 Oneida High School's first home was located in a two-room building (a third room was added later) on the grounds formerly occupied by the Litton School, which was the first school in the county. The site was just behind the old Conatser store building that burned on Main Street, near the present location of Westminster Apartments.
In 1915, a group of farsighted educators in the Oneida community decided it was time the townspeople had a school equal to any in the state. They had Bill No. 1064 introduced into the State Senate in May, 1915, by Mr. JARVIS. This bill created the Oneida Special School District. The Act defined the boundaries and provided for management, control and qualifications for teachers and trustees (school board members).
In the year 1916 the Independent Board of Oneida took its first big step toward fulfilling the dream of its founders: they had another resolution introduced to the General Assembly of the Tennessee Legislature, a Private Act authorizing the Trustees of the Independent Board of the Oneida High School of Scott County to issue bonds, not in excess of $50,000.00 for the purpose of erecting a new building, on a new site.
This Board purchased five acres of land from A. C. TERRY further up Main Street, where the present school is located; and on that ground by 1920 a new building was constructed, where the High and Grammar Schools operated until 1924.
Here the Board took a second step, which was to erect another High School Building; and the State passed a Private Act authorizing the Quarterly Court of Scott County to levy a special tax on those living within the boundary of the Independent School District, to erect this building.
This tax did not meet the amount necessary to complete the structure, so an additional tax of 25 cents on each $1,000.00 of taxable property in the county had to be authorized by the General Assembly; and that was no sooner completed than, in 1925, a new additional building was needed.
In 1931, the 66th Assembly of the General Assembly made it possible for the Oneida Independent School to sell more building, interest-bearing bonds, not to exceed $25,000.00, for the purpose of erecting additions to both the High School and the Grammar School. This gave them a good library, a study hall and additional classrooms.
The buildings mentioned took care of the enrollment until the fire of 1941, which destroyed the old part of the High School. The new construction was saved by the fire departments of Oneida and Harriman; and, by 1943, the new building was ready for occupancy.
Fire struck again in 1944. This time, the fire destroyed the original Elementary Building and the equipment; nothing was saved. But another structure for this branch, costing $220,000.00 was erected and was occupied by the fall of 1948. While this building was rising. some of the High School students used
(See BOARD OF EDUCATION on page 5)
(Continued from page 4)
part of the First Baptist Church for classrooms, letting a section of the Elementary pupils occupy the High School building.
All of the original structures had been burned out, except for the old frame gymnasium, which had been put up in 1925-26, and which was the first one in the county. It, however, was also demolished to make room for a more modern gym.
On Monday night, December 4, 1961, at the Board meeting, the lowest bid, that of the Plateau Construction Company of $175,851, to erect a new school building was accepted. The awarding of this contract climaxed planning which began a year earlier. The bonds were sold in October of 1961 and the money was received by the Board of Education in December. Work on this building, however, could not start until the old Agriculture, Band and Home Economics structures were removed from the grounds.
This new school was completed in the early part of September of 1962 and consists of the following: a 200-capacity cafeteria with the latest equipment for both the kitchen and dining room; an agriculture shop and classroom: restrooms for boys and girls; a guidance center and lounge; science classrooms; a library and one additional classroom.
That was all of the building for the Oneida Schools until the 1990s.
Originally, $4.5 million was needed to finance the building program proposed for the school system. Creative financing, coupled with generous benefactors and a bond issue, have resulted in a new elementary school (which was dedicated in 1992), and construction presently underway on a new middle/high school complex.
Memorial classrooms sold for $30,000 each and honorary deeds for $1 per square foot netted approximately $200,000. In May 1990, the voters of the special school district passed by a margin of 85% a $1.5 million bond issue. Its passage was aided by the Board of Education’s extensive advertising and media campaign based on the slogan:
"Approve a $1.5 million bond issue and we’ll build you a $4.5 million school." However, the passage of the referendum left two-thirds of the amount needed to fund the construction.
An anonymous donor pledged $5 million over a 10-year period for academic enhancement, which was contingent upon improved performance in several different areas as determined by annual evaluations.
A $1.5 million gift was also received from the Thompson Charitable Foundation to be applied toward the building program.
Matching contributions were needed and pledges were obtained, including a generous pledge from the Town of Oneida for $250,000.
The University of Tennessee adopted the Oneida Special School District and then UT President Lamar Alexander visited Oneida to exhibit UT’s support of the project.
It is estimated that funds raised or promised for the building and academic enhancements is $10 million.
A dream is coming true. The Oneida Special School District will have new facilities and an enhanced academic program because of the community, forward-thinking school personnel, and generous benefactors who wanted to have not only an exemplary model school for East Tennessee, but a "world class" school in Oneida. They are "Going for the MAX (‘Maximum Academic eXcellence’) into the 21st Century."
FNB Chronicle, Vol. 4 No. 3 – Winter 1993
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
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