Central High School
Home to Cookeville High School from 1932 to 1966
In 1928, Cookeville officials and the Putnam County Herald began promoting the idea of a permanent home for high school students. A special session of the Tennessee State Legislature had recently enacted a bill requiring that each county build and maintain a high school in the county seat of the respective county. On February 10, 1930, a special session of the county court was held on whether or not to build a new high school in Cookeville. After four hours of speeches and debate, the motion on building a new high school in Cookeville was defeated with 30 votes against and only 8 in favor, with 7 members not voting.
Another meeting was held in the summer of 1930 to try and figure out what to do with the 800 grammar students and 340 high school students all housed in the City School. One suggestion was to move lower grades out of the City School and into local churches but that idea was rejected. The issue was resolved by allowing one floor of the building to be used for high school students for the 1930-31 school year.
In 1931, the issue of voting bonds for a new high school was finally put to the voters and passed. Fourteen acres of land were purchased north of town to build the school. When construction of the school was complted in 1932, it had 14 classrooms, a modern cafeteria with a steam table, a gymnasium, science labs, an auditorium and facilities for vocational and home economics courses. The new Central High School opened its doors in September 1932. The next 20 years saw two new wings added to the building to meet rising enrollment.
During World War II, students across Putnam County showed patriotism by helping to sell war bonds. Schools were also used to distribute ration books necessary to make purchases during the war. Classes were dismissed on days these coupon books were given out. School officials faced a severe teacher shortage during the war and were forced to fill many positions with people not certified to teach.
Public schools in Putnam County had been segregated until the 1960s. On January 8, 1963, a fire destroyed the Darwin School which provided education to the county's African-American population. The county denied state funds to asist in rebuilding the school because the school did not meet attendance requirements. So in 1964, Putnam County's African-American students and teachers quietly and smoothly integrated into the white schools.
In the early 1960s, a vote was taken to build a new high school to replace Central High School as well as Algood High School. Central High would become a junior high school for grades 7-9 with the elementary schools designated for grades 1-6. Putnam County Senior High School was constructed and opened its doors in 1966. Central High School became a junior high for grades 7-9 and eventually became Prescott Central Middle School. Today, the old Central High School building is home to Foundation Hall on the campus of Tennessee Technonlogical University.
Brutton, Bobbie (June 3, 2003). “Central High School Finds a New Home”. Herald-Citizen, Cookeville, Tennessee