Sam Shumate Special to the Post
January 6, 2014
Ashe County had nine high schools when I was a student in the 1950’s. The most unique was Virginia-Carolina where one could attend class in North Carolina and eat lunch in Virginia without leaving the campus. When playing baseball one could honestly brag about hitting a ball clear out of the state.
Virginia-Carolina paved the way for public education with innovations that set precedents for other districts. It received its accreditation in 1922, making it the first accredited public school in Ashe County. Under the leadership of Mr. W.C. LaRue the first agriculture department was established in1924 and the Future Farmers of America entered the educational scene. The department had its own classroom building and farm shop.
As early as 1913, leaders in the Grassy Creek area were planning to build a school. Mr. Catlett Pugh donated land in Grayson County, Virginia and Mr. Greer Parsons donated joining land in Ashe County, NC. The first building was a large two-story wood-frame structure straddling the state line with four classrooms, an auditorium and a music room. In the early 1920s other rooms were added, along with a library.
The home economics building opened in 1920. It contained four rooms: a classroom, sewing room, kitchen and a dining room where faculty members could enjoy a lunch prepared by students.
In 1927 a teacher training department was established. Under the direction of Miss Meta Lyle and Miss Johnnie Gore, former graduates could enroll and take a one-year course that earned them a class C teaching certificate. Only three other schools in Southwestern Virginia and none in North Carolina offered this program.
Principal F.C. Nye and math/science teacher Worth Young led a project to build a gymnasium that opened in the 1930s.
A commercial department was added in 1939 under the direction of Mrs. Irene Cox. This addition was a forerunner to our modern distributive education classes.
In 1939-40, the original building was replaced with a modern twelve-room brick structure by the Works Progress Administration. This building served the school well until it was destroyed by fire February 5, 1967. The building containing the auditorium in North Carolina and the lunchroom in Virginia was all that remained.
Thus ended a unique and innovative school that demonstrated how citizens from two states and two counties could pool their ideas and resources to construct and operate a highly successful educational institution. The costs were proportionately divided based on the number of students from each state. The grade school and agriculture department was maintained by Grayson County; the high school and home economics department by Ashe.
While Virginia-Carolina remains mostly as a memory, it should go down in history as one of the most successful educational experiments in our history.
Source: Mrs. Irene Cox in The Heritage of Ashe County, Vol. 1, pp 72-73