Calhoun Elementary School has a history dating back to the turn of the century, to a time when students rode to school on wagons drawn by teams of mules and were taught by teachers who were barely out of high school themselves.
The school's history includes construction projects that allowed the students to move into new facilities and includes the closing of Calhoun High School, whose students once shared the same building as the elementary students.
Currently, the school's enrollment stands at 434 students in grades PreK-8. Students are taught by a staff that includes 27 teachers, 5 teacher's assistants, and Ms. Teresa Blevins, principal. The school's home on Sherwood Avenue is actually a combination of two buildings, one built in 1959 for the high school, and the other in 1971 for the elementary students. After the high school was closed in 1979, the elementary school took over those classrooms as well.
When Calhoun Elementary moved into its current home in 1971, it marked the end of a 55-year era in the town's history. From 1916 until 1971, students attended a two-story building located on a hill overlooking what is now the Hiwassee Meadowlands Park. Earlier, a frame building served as the school's home.
Actually, education in Calhoun began before the public school system was organized. A history of McMinn County, compiled in 1984 by Memphis State Professor C. Stephen Byrum, said the first school in the county was Hiwassee Academy in Calhoun. The school, which opened around 1923, was later known as Hiwassee Masonic Institute and had nearly 100 students enrolled as late as 1974. The school was held in the old Masonic Lodge, which is still standing across the railroad tracks on the west side of Main Street.
Although long-time residents of Calhoun say classes were once held in a log house located in front of First Baptist Church, records on file in the McMinn County School Administrator's office begin with the county acquiring a deed for "one acre more or less" in 1903. That property was located on a tract of land that would later be the site of the two-story brick building. A two-room frame house served as the school until the McMinn County Board of Education approved a construction project in 1916.
According to the agreement signed by county school officials on May 22 of that year, Cleveland Construction Company was authorized to build the new school for $7,250. The contractor was given until September 1 to complete the project. Mrs. Fannie Maddox, who taught at Calhoun for 40 years, said residents of the community contributed money to help pay for it.
Three rural schools (Hiwassee, Center Point, and Britton) were consolidated with Calhoun when the school year began. Later, Pine Knot was also consolidated with the school in 1922. Even in its early years, the building was not large enough to meet the needs of the students. Mrs. Maddox said some classes continued to be held in the nearby frame building. Later, two classrooms were added in the basement, which also housed the cafeteria and boiler room.
For 43 years the building served as the home of both the elementary school and high school. But in 1959, a new high school was built on property the county acquired on Sherwood Avenue. At the time it was built, newspaper reports hailed it as one of the most attractive facilities in East Tennessee.
For the next 12 years, Calhoun Elementary students continued to attend classes in their old building. But, by 1970, construction was underway on a new elementary school located next to the high school. By building the two schools next to each other, students would be allowed to use the same cafeteria and gymnasium. The construction project was completed in 1971, and the students and teachers moved into their new building in the middle of the 1970-71 school year.