History of Wirt County Schools

The Wirt County school district has gone through many changes, consolidations, and renovations over the years.

During the early days of the pioneers, children were needed on their farms and “subscription schools” were throughout the county. These were formally taught terms where students would go to school and learn for four, six, eight, and ten week courses, as their farm work would allow. During this time families would take turns boarding the teachers in their homes.

By 1880, Wirt County had over 70 schools dotting the countryside.  Each school building followed a standard layout, a roughly 16x18 foot building with 8 foot ceilings and a woodstove for heat on one end opposite the door.  As travel became more efficient the county was able to consolidate, bringing the number of schools down to around 50 by 1933.  By 1953, the district was down to just 6 schools.  The first recorded graduation found was recorded by Burning Springs High School in 1894.

In the 1880s, Elizabeth graded school had 3 divisions, and was housed in 2 buildings on Washington Street with Edgar Heermans as principal.  Heermans would be involved in Wirt County schools from 1844 to 1900 having worked both in Elizabeth and Burning Springs.   In 1896, a 5 room brick graded school was constructed on Court Street with additions coming in 1945.

In September 1915, fourteen students met in the fifth room of the Elizabeth Grade School with Mr. C.H. Snodgrass as principal. In 1919, the “high school” moved to the second floor of the Kanawha Motor Co. situated beside the Wirt County Courthouse. The first class graduated in the following spring of 1920.

The following year, 1921, Elizabeth High School was completed and four year courses were offered. Elizabeth High School was a two-story building, the bottom floor being made up of 2 classrooms with a partition that could be removed for assemblies. The second floor consisted of a classroom and a laboratory. It was designed to accommodate sixty students. In 1920, Elizabeth High School was also classified a first class high school by the State Department. 

After several attempts, the high school became a county school, replacing its previous title of a joint-district school. A special levy was passed to build a new county high school soon after. Using county and federal aid, construction began in 1937 on a new building. Wirt County High School was completed and held its first classes there in 1938. Their new building contained 13 classrooms.

Other additions to the school were made through the years including a gymnasium, vocational wing, library, auditorium, and a new office complex were added to the high school grounds.  The Dora B. Woodyard Library was built on the high school campus in 1962 where it still stands serving both the high school and public at large. 

Originally parents and citizens were contracted to transport students to the high school in their own vehicles and in return receive a monthly stipend. In 1939, the Board of Education purchased its first bus. In the 1980s the fleet reached a height of 25 buses and routes. With consolidation, the current fleet stands at 13 route buses, and 5 reserve spares.

In 1963, new elementary schools, Elizabeth Elementary and Newark Elementary were constructed in their respective regions.  In 1977, additions of new classrooms, a cafeteria, and resource center were added to Elizabeth Elementary.

Finally, in 1992 Wirt County Middle School was opened attached to the Wirt County Primary Center, formerly Elizabeth Elementary, and consolidation of the county was complete.  Currently, the Wirt County Primary Center houses PreK-4, the Middle School 5-8, and the High School 9-12.

In 2009 Wirt County High School earned the prestigious National Blue Ribbon of Excellence Award.

In 2018, the entire school system underwent renovations to replace all lighting with LED systems and replaced the aging HVAC systems with new units. 


Works Cited

  1. 1939 Wirt County High School Yearbook. Elizabeth, WV, Elizabeth Joint-District High School of Elizabeth, West Virginia, 1939

  2. Coplin, Violet Honaker (1981). Wirt County, West Virginia History. Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing Company. pp. 53–59.

  3. Daniel, Roscoe R, editor. 1926 Wirt County High School Yearbook. Elizabeth, WV, Elizabeth Joint-District High School of Elizabeth, West Virginia, 1926

  4. Elizabethan Commencement Number 1924. The Wirt County Journal. 1924.

  5. Smith, James L. Elizabeth, W. Va. In Review. pp. 13–15.

  6. Snyder, Edna Burton, editor. 1925 Wirt County High School Yearbook. Elizabeth, WV, Elizabeth Joint-District High School of Elizabeth, West Virginia 1925

  7. West Virginia Department of Education. (n.d.). National Blue Ribbon Schools. Retrieved October 03, 2018, from https://wvde.state.wv.us/hr/blueRibbon.php


The above information was provided by Mr. Goff's World History, Contemporary Studies and Sociology Classes at Wirt County High School.