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History of Springfield Elementary School

What is a school? A school is more than a place where learning occurs. It is a group of people: students, teachers, principals, and others interested in the education and welfare of children. Historically, education took place in the home, church schools, and private schools.

The public school system that we have today was established by an act of the Georgia legislative on October 13, 1870. In accordance with this act, a county board of education was appointed and met in 1871 to create a county system of education using any existing schools. In Springfield there was a private school, Effingham Academy, which was in existence in the late 1700s.

When the County School Commissioner asked the trustees of Effingham Academy to turn over all the school property and assets to the Board of Education, they originally refused, and the school continued to operate privately for several years. Sometime between 1887 and 1891, Effingham Academy did become part of the county school system.

There is record of a “fine academy” that existed during the War Between the States. Records mention that it was one of the oldest known schools in Georgia. General Sherman spared the building during his March to the Sea.

The first Effingham Academy in Springfield was a three-story building, built in 1792 on the corner of Madison and Oak Streets. The first story was brick where the students attended school; the second and third stories were built of wood. The principal lived on the second floor and some students were housed on the third floor. The school burned in 1892.The second Effingham Academy was built on Oak Street in 1892. The building served as a school until 1911. The school house was purchased by Wardlaw and Corrie Neidlinger.

The third Effingham Academy was built in 1911. The three-story brick building was located on what is now Ulmer Park and the Treutlen Building. The building was torn down in 1936 because it was unsafe. When the students came down the stairs on the inside, the principal would stand at the bottom of the stairs and caution students to come down slowly.

A fourth Effingham Academy was built on Ash Street in 1936 and dedicated in 1937. After a boiler room fire at the facility on January 29, 1940, high school classes were held in the grammar school building, and the elementary school moved into rooms in the gymnasium and the canning plant until the end of the school year. Damage was estimated at $40,000. (Canning plants were typical in early schools. Mothers spent hours during the summer months canning vegetables and meats for school lunches.)

The school was rebuilt and caught fire again on October 12, 1951, Effingham Academy was again temporarily relocated until the facility could be rebuilt. Classes were held in the undestroyed gym and one wing, and the annex of the Methodist Church. Damage was estimated at $50,000. In 1951 County School Superintendent Mingledorff stated in an interview about rebuilding the school, “We have not overcome our difficulties. We only try to meet them as they come.”

In 1956, when the first Effingham High School opened, Springfield Elementary School remained at its location on Ash Street while the high school grades transferred to the new school. In 1989, Springfield Elementary School was moved to its recent location on Wallace Drive and named Springfield Central Elementary School. In the fall of 2003, we moved to our new location on Old Dixie Highway in a beautiful new building and have resumed the name Springfield Elementary School.

To be continued ...

Written by Mrs. Edna.Q. Morgan, Mrs. Joan Neidlinger, Mr. Norman Turner, & Mrs. Dayle Burns.

Jan. 22, 2004