Randolph Central School History
It was not until 1851 that Indiana made provision for public education. The first schools in Randolph County were conducted by the Society of Friends. These included Quaker schools at White River, east of Winchester, and Dunkirk, west of Winchester. Other students were educated in subscription schools, conducted intermittently and in a haphazard manner. In 1842 the Randolph County Seminary opened on West Franklin Street in Winchester. It was one of the best-known schools of its kind in Indiana. By 1865 there were thirty-seven one-room schoolhouses serving the students of Franklin, Ward, and White River Townships. In 1873 the schools of Winchester and Ridgeville were transferred to the control of the town governments.
The Early Twentieth Century
Randolph County became widely known for its consolidation of one-room schools into rural high schools in the early twentieth century under the leadership of the County Superintendent of Schools, Lee L. Driver. Two consolidated schools were built in White River Township: Lincoln, west of Winchester, in 1908-09, and McKinley, east of Winchester, in 1911. Two consolidated schools also served Ward Township. Jefferson School, built in 1911, served the western part of the township, while Saratoga School served the eastern part. Franklin Township’s pupils were consolidated into Ridgeville School in 1923. The School City of Winchester remained a separate entity with pupils housed in three buildings by 1920: Winchester High School and Central Elementary, built in 1898, Frances E. Willard Elementary School, built in 1906-07, and Oliver P. Morton Elementary School, built in 1915-16.
White River High School and White River Elementary School
In 1950 high school pupils from Lincoln High School were transported to McKinley High School. A new structure, White River High School, was built just west of McKinley in 1956-57 at a cost of $251,913. Elementary grades were transported from Lincoln to McKinley beginning in January 1957. White River Elementary School was built west of the high school in 1958 at a cost of $250,000. McKinley School was razed in 1960.
Ward and Ward-Jackson
Jefferson’s high school students were sent to Saratoga in the fall of 1955, and Saratoga School became known as Ward High School. A referendum to consolidate Ward Township and Jackson Township passed in 1957. In the fall of 1958, elementary students from Jefferson were sent to Saratoga and junior and senior high school students from Jackson were sent to Saratoga. Ward (Saratoga) School became known as “Ward-Jackson School,” while the Jackson building functioned under its original name. In the fall of 1959, the two buildings were re-aligned, with all students from grades six through twelve attending Saratoga and those from 1 through 5 attending Jackson. The Jackson building became known as “Ward-Jackson Elementary School” in the fall of 1961.
Winchester-White River Township
Attempts were made five times to consolidate the School City of Winchester and White River School Township. In June 1959 the merger was approved in one of the first referenda held under the new 1959 School Reorganization Act. The suit of White River patrons seeking to block consolidation was the test case used by the Indiana Supreme Court to uphold the validity of the 1959 act. The new district was known as the Metropolitan School District of Winchester-White River Township. In the fall of 1959 Winchester High School became Lee L. Driver High School, and White River High School became Lee L. Driver Junior High School. Oscar R. Baker Elementary School opened in the fall of 1959. Morton, White River, and Willard Elementary Schools continued to function.
Randolph Central is Formed
The proposal to merge Franklin Township, Ward Township, and White River Township as “Randolph Central” was a part of the Randolph County School Reorganization Committee’s proposal at the May 1962 primary. The plan was approved by a sixty-one percent margin. Jackson Township’s students were sent to the newly formed Randolph Eastern School Corporation. Ward’s secondary students were sent to Driver High School and Driver Junior High School in the fall. A third unit was built at Driver-White River in 1962 at a cost of $412,605.43, connecting the two previous units. Another addition was made at Driver in 1974-75. Ridgeville High School functioned until the spring of 1966. High school students were sent to Winchester in the fall, and the name of Lee L. Driver High School was changed to Winchester Community High School.
Winchester Community High School
Plans were made to replace the 1898 high school building as soon as the new school corporation was formed. A thirty-acre site was secured on North Union Street in 1964. The new building, erected at a cost of $2,848,839, was first used in the fall of 1967 and dedicated in April 1969. Small additions were made in 1981. The old high school building was razed in 1972-73, though the Field House, erected in 1951-52, remains on the original site as the home of most athletic activities.
Elementary School Changes
A new Frances E. Willard Elementary School was constructed in 1969-71 at a cost of $850,000. White River and Baker elementary districts were combined in the fall of 1980. Baker served lower grades and White River served upper grades. Deerfield Elementary School, constructed in 1981-82, opened in the fall of 1982 to replace Ridgeville and Ward Elementary Schools. The structure cost $2,532,299.17. In the spring of 1984, White River Elementary School was discontinued. Driver Junior High School became Driver Middle School in the fall, taking over both buildings. Primary students from Morton were sent to Baker, and intermediate students from White River were sent to Morton and Deerfield. Morton Elementary School closed in the spring of 1992 and was razed in the fall. In 1997 Baker and Willard were re-aligned, with Baker serving the lower grades and Willard serving the upper grades. Baker Elementary School was enlarged and renovated in 2001-02.
Current Instructional Arrangements
Today Randolph Central School Corporation consists of five schools. Winchester Community High School serves grades nine through twelve, while Lee L. Driver Middle School serves grades six through eight. Deerfield Elementary serves kindergarten through fifth grade for the northern portion of the district. Baker Elementary School and Willard Elementary School serve the same geographic area, with Baker serving kindergarten through second grade, and Willard serving third grade through fifth grade. The district enrolls approximately 1700 students.