This week’s look at Bartlett’s schools will begin with the oldest elementary schools and return to the high school next week.
Both the Courthouse School (established in 1885) and its successor, Nicholas Blackwell High School (built in 1917) had grades 1-12. For more than four decades the facility and curriculum were expanded and adapted to meet the needs of the rural community. In 1960 with increased high school enrollment, grades 1-8 were administratively separated from the high school. In 1963 a new building with 16 classrooms was completed next to the high school and named Bartlett Elementary School. A two-story addition doubled the number of classrooms in 1966.
Bartlett grew rapidly during the 1970s and 1980s. The quality of educational services contributed significantly to this population growth, which changed Bartlett from agricultural to a suburban residential community. People were drawn to Bartlett because of its outstanding schools. As enrollment increased at Bartlett Elementary, the seventh- and eighth-grade students were moved to a middle school; in 1987 the sixth grade was also moved to a middle school campus, and Bartlett Elementary became a K-5 school. In 1991 Bartlett Elementary moved into a new facility at 3932 Billy Maher Road with 51 classrooms, and it was built for 1,200 students in anticipating of continued growth and changing school boundaries. Ten classrooms were added in 2001. The old building on Woodlawn was re-purposed for special education programs and administrative offices, and from its inception in 1960 to the present, only four principals have served Bartlett Elementary: Lawrence C. Smith (1960-1977), Rose Powell (1977-1988), Penelope S. Eilert (1988-1999) and R. Page Watson (1999-present).
Currently Bartlett Elementary’s enrollment is 723, which includes pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. Bartlett is the only elementary school in Bartlett City Schools that offers a string class to all fifth graders and science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) classes to all students in grades K-5 every other week. They have after-school clubs, including sewing, science, drama provided by Playhouse on the Square, and photography. Beach Club is sponsored by Faith Baptist on Monday afternoons. It is an Art Integrated school and was awarded the Tennessee Arts Commission Arts 360 Arts Integration Grant (a three-year grant program). Throughout its long history Bartlett Elementary has changed, relocated, weathered many struggles and still stands as an outstanding school teaching children with much the same inspiration and creativity as their predecessors did almost 150 years ago.
As far back as the turn of the 20th century, the Bond Station (Ellendale) community provided public education in a frame house near what is now Memphis-Arlington and Appling roads. The school was originally named Bond Station School. Students from first grade through high school attended this one-room school. The school met the needs of the community for many years with teachers often riding horseback to school or boarding in the neighborhood.
In 1906 the name of the community and the school was changed to Ellendale, and in 1918 a school was built at Third and Memphis-Arlington roads. The building consisted of an auditorium with a stage, two classrooms, and a coal room. Indoor plumbing was added in 1949. The school began to grow and in 1953 an additional four classrooms, cafeteria, kitchen and restrooms were constructed. The community and schools grew, and several additions and faculty were added.
In 1978 a new facility was built at 6950 Dawnhill Road. The old school was purchased by the City of Bartlett in 1983 and became Singleton Community Center. With Ellendale’s continued growth, a new addition to the school was completed in 1980, and in 1984 an additional eight classrooms were added. By the late 1980s Ellendale had become a K-5 school and entered the new technology age and continued to advance. It provided students with access to computers, including mobile laptop carts, a laptop lab and interactive projectors. In 1990 the school was wired for a computer network with the help of community stakeholders, and the entire facility is now wireless.
In 2014 Bartlett formed its own municipal school district, Bartlett City Schools. This was a major change but did not adversely affect the community of Ellendale Elementary School. The community demographics have varied slightly, and it has recently been approved as a Title 1 school as per federal regulations. Students from all socioeconomic groups, ability levels and family structures attend. Ellendale has received The School of Excellence Award from the National PTA and was also recognized as a Reward School by the State of Tennessee in 2012. The Memphis Business Journal recently named Ellendale as one of the top elementary schools in the area. The Ellendale area was very rural in the early 1900s, and the creation of a school shows the importance of education to parents even back then. The school prospered because of the perseverance of parents working to provide a better life for their children.
See next week’s historical column for more information on Bartlett schools.
Sources: Bartlett Elementary School and Ellendale Elementary School principals.
Written by Suzanne Griffith Coleman, special to the Express.