Paulding's Only Black School Still Stands
The Irma F. Matthews School is now used as the Paulding County School System's Maintenance Department and Testing.
Paulding County’s only black school isn’t in use as an educational institution anymore, but the building still stands with its name still emblazoned on the front.
The Irma F. Matthews School was located on Academy Drive and housed black students up to grade 12. The school was named for Irma Foster Matthews, who was the school system’s first female superintendent. Matthews began her teaching career at Crowsville School around 1900 and became the county’s school superintendent in 1937, a position in which she served for 12 years. The book Paulding County: Its People and Places by W.A. Foster Jr. said that no name is associated more with the consolidation movement in Paulding County than that of Foster.
“Consolidation was still an ugly word at the beginning of her tenure as Superintendent,” the book stated.
However, Matthews continued to preach the idea that quality education couldn’t be achieved in one-room schools and pledged her efforts to the consolidation movement regardless of political consequence. But, teachers, who contributed fuel for fires and took care of repairs at the schools, considered the buildings to be ‘their’ schools and didn’t want them consolidated.
“When consolidation was suggested, the tempers of the local people flared,” the book stated. “It was a tough fight with good arguments for each side. But better roads, along with the opportunity for the people to visit and compare other places, helped bolster the efforts of the progressives who favored consolidation.”
By the 1951-1952 school year, the number of schools in Paulding County had been consolidated to nine. According to the Paulding County Genealogy Society, the Matthews School, which originally was Matthews High School, was renamed Matthews Consolidated School when it consolidated with Hiram Elementary School.
In 1954, following the case of Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered schools in the country to desegregate with “all deliberate speed,” but desegregation didn’t occur in Georgia until 1961 when Atlanta Public Schools and the University of Georgia complied. In 1967, Paulding County began hiring limited numbers of black teachers for its white schools and, at that point, the school system began the process of building a new school—Paulding County High School—into which Dallas High, Hiram and Matthews schools would be consolidated. While Dallas was a high school, Hiram and Matthews schools had students from grade one through 12. Schools were integrated in the Paulding County School System for the 1969-1970 school year.
After desegregation ended in Paulding County, the Matthews School was used as one of the desegregated elementary schools in the county. Its teachers were given the opportunity to be reassigned to other schools, and eight took the school system up on that offer.
The Matthews School still stands, tucked back off of Academy Drive, and is the site of the school system’s Maintenance Department and Testing. Its gymnasium now houses the Paulding County Boys and Girls Club.