The need for good schools here posed special problems. The large transplanted population wanted schools at least as good as those they left behind, and the school population was destined to skyrocket from 830 in October 1943 to 8,223 in October 1945 as families streamed in from every state. The first superintendent, Alden H. Blankenship, was a truly remarkable educator. He did a masterful job of recruiting top-notch staff and almost overnight created an innovative, high-quality school system. The first senior class of 25 graduated in June 1944, and the "Wildcats" football team played their first game that fall. Three existing county schools that had previously served the rural area were put to use immediately: Wheat, Robertsville, and Scarboro in Bethel Valley. Two new schools, Elm Grove Elementary and the original Oak Ridge High School on Kentucky Avenue, were completed in time for the October 1943 opening. The town grew quickly and so did new neighborhood elementary schools: Cedar Hill, Fairview, Gamble Valley, Glenwood, Highland View, Linden, and Pine Valley. But school enrollment levels mirrored plant employment; with the big postwar layoffs at Y-12 in 1946, enrollments dropped by 1,200 to 7,000 students. Oak Ridge schools were excellent from the start; administrators trusted their staff and gave them the freedom and resources
to do their best. Parents were heavily involved in and committed to quality education. The Secret City schools established high educational standards that have been sustained and enhanced in the years since. Oak Ridge schools continue to provide fine educational opportunities for all children; their excellence is nationally recognized and a source of great community pride.
Erected in Honor of the Teachers, Administrators, and Staff Who Built the Outstanding School Systems of the Secrete City By the Oak Ridge School System, June 2005.