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The original Van Buren County High School building shortly after completion.

Van Buren County High School was built under the plan and direction of Superintendent of Schools James Maurice Taft. At the September 10, 1936 meeting of the Van Buren County Board of Education, James M. Taft, Superintendent, and board members, Sam Gamble, C.L. Russell, Marie Hillis, P.M. Shockley, Albert Jones, Sr., John Deweese, and Charlie Hollingsworth, were appointed to purchase land and materials necessary to build a public high school.

The cost of Superintendent Taft’s plan was estimated at $80,000—a high price for the county in the 1930s. Looking for a budget-wise plan, the board of education bought 103 acres of forested land for $309. The trees on this land were cut for lumber by volunteers. A sand-stone quarry was opened on this land as well. A sawmill was constructed from junk-pile parts, and the lumber was sawed by local men. With the help of students, the school was rushed to completion in the fall of 1940.

James Maurice Taft

The class of 1939 was the first to graduate in the original high school. Though the first to attend school was the graduating class of 1940. The class of 1939 consisted of thirteen students: Velma Hillis, Willene Hollingsworth, Hassie Lee McCormick, Ina Cunningham, Edith Juanita Bouldin, Robbie Hillis, Mary Moore, Leonard Davis, Lois Witt, Ganell Rodgers, Karl J. Rodgers, President, Karl Hillis, Vice-President, and Joene Guy, Secretary and Treasurer. Superintendent Taft was the school principal for the class of ‘39 and Chester Haston was the class sponsor.

The original structure cost only $20,000. Additions were made in 1956, 1969, and 1974. In 1956, a stage and dressing room addition was made to the north side of the gym. This also included a new cafeteria and new classrooms and offices. The left wing of the school was added in 1969 and the right wing in 1974. The industrial arts building was completed in 1985.

The remains of the original structure after the fire in 1988.

The original main building was destroyed in a fire on October 3, 1988. No one knows what caused the fire, though there is speculation that it began from faulty wiring in the school’s new dishwasher. The industrial arts building and agriculture building were saved through the honorable efforts of local and neighboring fire departments.

The first class to graduate in the new high school building was the class of 1990, but the first to attend was the class of 1991. Additions have been made to the current campus such as the addition to the industrial arts building in 2001 and the completion of the freshman academy and auxiliary gym in January 2012.

Even through hard and pressing times, Van Buren County High School has, and will continue to prevail.

Enrollment is over 400, serving grades 6-12.

-Casey Edwards, Class of 2016

The present building completed in 1990.