School Closings (& Openings)

Of course another school year is nearly complete. Hard to believe! Lee County Schools will celebrate graduation at every school in the system in early June. Before this academic time enters the history books, let’s take a closer look at some of the area’s notable buildings of higher education, beginning with Sanford’s first public high school. Now known as the Mann Center of North Carolina, this present-day home to live concerts and performances, the Arts & Vine Series of entertainment, and numerous non-profits and artisans, began its community service in 1925. The building’s central downtown location on Steele Street, made it an ideal focal point for education. When the new high school opened in 1952, this building became Sanford Junior High School, and eventually transitioned to it’s present role.

There’s a “new” W.B. Wicker School scheduled to open its doors to elementary school students this fall, so it seems appropriate to revisit the history of the building at 900 South Vance Street. The Lee County Training School was the original provider of educational opportunities for our community’s African-American children. In 1927 the Vance Street location was built and named the South Sanford Graded School. In 1954, the school was renamed the (original!) W.B. Wicker School, in honor of William Bartelle Wicker, it’s long-time dedicated, much-beloved principal.

Central Carolina Community College has also enjoyed dramatic and consistent growth over the decades. CCCC now has campuses and numerous accredited programs at locations across three North Carolina counties and graduates several hundred students each year. The very first building for CCCC was completed here, just off of Kelly Drive in Sanford, in 1962.

Our final stop on this school-based time travel brings us to one of the many private schools that were commonplace throughout Lee County before the public school system took hold. This is the Jonesboro Academy, which was affiliated with the Jonesboro Methodist Church and served students from the 1870s, into the early 20th century.

Editorial content, pictures and research background, compliments of Jimmy Haire and Images of America: Sanford and Lee County, by Jimmy Haire & W.W. Seymour, Jr, available here for purchase. All book proceeds go to Sanford’s Railroad House Historical Association, Inc.