As Norris Trice sat among fellow alumni at the opening dedication ceremony for the new Northside Elementary School on Sept. 21, childhood memories came flooding back to him.
The former pastor said his time at the original school from 1949 to 1950 was a lot like the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Trice said the teachers played a large part in raising the elementary school students, keeping in close contact with the parents. He said he remembers one teacher insisting that he clean his room at home.
“They loved their children,” he said. “I just miss them.”
Amid his memories of playing on the playground, Trice said he also remembers prayer being a significant part of the school day. He said students used to attend a devotional period every day.
Trice said building a new Northside Elementary means a lot to him as he was able to watch the original all-black school transition into the integrated one it is today.
“I have seen how progress has been made,” he said.
The original school was built in 1924 using funds from the surrounding black community as well as a grant from Julius Rosenwald, a businessman and advocate for the education of African-American children in the rural South.
The original name of the school was Orange County Training School, and by 1933, more than 500 students attended the school. By 1945, eight more classrooms had been added to accommodate the influx of students.
The school’s name would change to Orange County High School and then to Lincoln High School in 1949.
The school eventually became Northside Elementary, housing grades one through six, after a new Lincoln High School was built in 1951.
The elementary school closed soon after mandatory school integration took effect in 1966.
Jeffrey Nash, the executive director of community relations for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said the town saw a need for the new elementary school due to a growing student population and began planning in 2008.
Annette Smith, a Chapel Hill resident who attended Northside in 1955, said she has fond memories of the school.
She said she used to live near St. Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal Church on South Merritt Mill Road and would walk to the school’s Caldwell Street location, a distance of about a mile.
Smith said she is glad Northside’s history is continuing with the new building.
“It feel good,” she said. “I enjoyed the time there.”
To keep its history alive, the new school has a glass case filled with artifacts, including old photos and the original cornerstone of the 1924 building.
Northside is the 11th elementary school to be built in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and officially opened for students on Aug. 26.
Betsy Davis, a Chapel Hill resident, attended Northside from first to sixth grade starting in 1946. Like Smith, she said she also walked to school from her home on Hillsborough Street.
Davis said her teachers pushed her to reach her full potential. “The teachers encouraged us to go beyond.”
She said she is glad the school was rebuilt and that it needed to be.
“This is where I came from, and we never forgot our roots.”