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Dunbar School still a beloved Fairmont landmark

Courtesy photo from Times West Virginian A Dunbar High School class photograph.
Courtesy photo from Times West Virginian
A Dunbar High School class photograph.

 

By Chelsi Baker

Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — There was a time, not too long ago, when children were kept separate. White students went to Fairmont Senior High School, and black students went to the “Colored School,” later known as Dunbar.

What is now considered Dunbar High School is located where Weatherwax becomes High Street. It was built to accommodate more students after overcrowding became a problem at the old school building.

The school’s current location housed around 20 classrooms, which was room for 600 students.

Construction finished in 1928, and 379 students attended its first year of classes. Children attending grades one to six were on the first and second floors, and grades seven to 12 were on the third floor.

Dunbar’s teachers were highly educated, many with advanced degrees in the fields of math, science and English. The school strove for academic excellence and became a member of the North Central Association for Secondary Schools and Colleges.

The grade school was also given a “Model School” rating.

Charles Nallen Jr., a Dunbar student from 1945-1955, remembers the teachers at Dunbar to be caring and attentive.

“Our teachers took the time to do extra things for our learning experience to be a great one,” he said.

Students at Dunbar did not always have the best supplies in the classroom. Books were second-hand, and often worn and dog-eared from extensive use.

Teachers, however, worked hard to make sure their students got first-rate education, said former student Wesley Dobbs, who attended Dunbar until the ninth grade.

“They wanted to see you get the best education that you could,” he said. “I think it was a life lesson to see how the teachers at Dunbar really wanted to give you the best that they could. That made it nice.

“I think it enhanced a lot of people. A lot of people went on to do great things in their lives.”

While students got a good education inside the school, their treatment outside the school was not always of the same quality.

Fairmont, after all, was very different back then…

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