Built in 1923
Closed in 1999
For the past 83 years, Wentworth Elementary School has symbolized education and unity to the citizens of the Wentworth Community and surrounding areas. Wentworth Elementary which was built in 1923 became the largest and oldest K-8 school in North Carolina. Generations of Wentworth students have shared the bonds of camaraderie, educational excellence, community pride, and the values that were established for them through this solid educational institution.Wentworth Elementary dates back to the year 1881 when female students attended a private school called Wentworth Female Seminary. Later, a public school entitled Wentworth Male Academy opened for males. In the rural, agriculturally based community of Wentworth, the school year originially lasted about four months, but in time, the public school year was lengthened to six months. Academic emphasis in these schools were placed on memory work, mental arithemetic, penmanship, and music.
Eventually, under the leadership of Mr. L. N. Hickerson, Superintendent of Rockingham County Schools, plans were made for the small country public schools to be consolidated. Mr. Hickerson searched for just the right spot to build his dream school, a three story brick building, which would house all students in the Wentworth community. Local residents, as well as the local news media, scoffed at the idea that there would ever be enough students to fill such a school. Undaunted, Mr. Hickerson proceeded with plans to implement his vision. Construction of the "Hickerson's Folly" as the new school was mockingly called, began in the fall of 1921, when mule drawn covered wagons began to haul in supplies to the chosen site. When the school was not yet ready to open in the fall of 1923, as was proposed, students were temporarily housed in various locations. Two Wentworth churches housed "primary" and "grammar grade" children, while Gunn's Store was opened to "high schoolers".
Finally, a little over two years and $100,000 later, classes were gathered from the various locations and moved into the spacious new building in the spring of 1924. That spring, the first prom was held in the new cafeteria and eight graduating seniors marched across the stage of the new auditorium. One of the first schools in North Carolina to consolidate, the new school was herald by the New York Times as one of the most progressive schools of the time. In time more facilities were required, progress continued as the new building added a gymnasium and a vocational classroom, as well as other classrooms. In 1955, when grades 1-12 students had completely outgrown the existing facility, a new elementary building was built on the same campus, housing grades 1-4, while the main building continued to house 5-12. The two buildings at Wentworth continued as a grade 1-12 school until a new high school was build approximately 1 mile east on Highway 87. Wentworth remained home for grades 1-8.
One change that had a considerable impact on the enrollment figures of Wentworth occurred when the state mandated the addition of a Kindergarten class in 1974. Then in 1983, the state required schools to implement into the daily schedule a planning time for teachers, when meant additional personnel had to be added to the staff to enrich the curriculum for students while their regular classroom teachers planned. Teachers were added in the areas of art, music, Spanish, physical education and guidance. Change continued as Wentworth began to implement programs designed specifically for students with special needs. These programs included areas such as BEH, EMH, AG, etc. for a time, due to a high percentage of students who qualified for a federally funded lunch program, Wentworth also had a Chapter 1 reading program. One of the first major changes to affect the number of students and staff at Wentworth was the county's decision to begin a preschool program in 1997. All the previously mentioned changes helped raise enrollment to 884 students by 1998/1999 which was Wentworth's last year as a Pre-K through eighth grade school.
Construction on the present Wentworth Elementary School began in the fall of 1998. The site chosen for the present facility was approximately 1 mile northeast of the previous facility, one fourth mile northeast of Wentworth Township. It is one of 17 traditional calendar schools in the consolidated Rockingham County School System. Students are bussed to the school from surrounding neighborhoods within the Wentworth School District. Although the majority of school population resides in the immediate area surrounding the school, some students voluntarily transfer from neighboring school distincts in the county. The new state of the art 77,300 square foot facility opened in the fall of 1999. It boasts special features such as : flexible grade house pods, teacher centers for planning and collaboration, integrated technology and media retrieval systems, and a multipurpose room which can accommodate all types of school and community events. It also had another very important feature that many schools take for granted, this is the first Wentworth Elementary School building to be fully centrally heated and cooled. Behind and to the side of the building, students have two large paved play areas as well as a 2 athletic fields.