Steps Toward Public Education in Princess Anne County

February 1847 - A public meeting is held at Princess Anne Courthouse to consider whether the county will respond to the General Assembly option for localities to establish public school systems. William Roberts presides. The decision is made to generate a petition drive among voters to generate support for a public referendum.

Spring 1847 - Following a successful petition effort to get the issue on the ballot, voters approve the creation of a public school system, which will include the acquisition of school sites. Princess Anne County becomes one of only a dozen localities in all of Virginia to establish a public school system prior to the Civil War.

Mid-year 1848 - For the first time, annual Princess Anne County property tax statements include a line for common (public) school support.

December 1848 - The first deeds are recorded for the sale of school sites to school commissioners. The process continues into the 1850's. It is not clear just when schools began operation, but some, if not all, were functioning before the property transactions were recorded.

March 1849 - A newspaper account of a local political meeting refers to delegates from each of the county's 21 school districts.

April 1850 - Citizens presumably unhappy at the tax burden to support public education manage to get the issue placed on a local ballot. Voters uphold the public school concept, as they will three more times up to 1861.

Fall 1870 - Princess Anne public schools remain in operation to some extent throughout the Civil War. When the revised state constitution of 1867-68 takes effect in 1870, requiring all localities to begin public education, the existing Princess Anne County system becomes part of that statewide system. At that point, the Princess Anne structure is broadened to include several schools for African-American children, as required by the new constitution.

1885-1920 - Mr. O. B. Mears came from a family of farmers on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. He was married to Sarepta Dozier of Princess Anne County. He brought the school system through the time of reconstruction, after the Civil War. Under his superintendency, the move from a one-room school house to multi-room concept occurred as well as the the first graduating high school class and the founding of the PTA. Mears has held the longest superintendency term in the history of Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

Records show that Mears once was the owner of the land where Kemps Landing School (Kempsville Road) was built. In fact, there was a one-room schoolhouse there originally and it was called the "O. B. Mears School." Behind the school property is a small "business park," and there is a street called "Oakmears Crescent."

In 1934, a temporary school site was established on the property of the predominantly black Union Baptist Church (located on South Boulevard, in the vicinity of present-day Mt. Trashmore) until a four-room building was completed in 1938 at the intersection of Cleveland Street and Witchduck Road. In 1949, construction started for additional space for Princess Anne County Training School. The additional space included four new classrooms, a cafeteria and lavatories. According to Princess Anne County records, in 1950, a 15-acre site adjacent to the training was purchased to build a new high school for “Negro children.” The high school addition was completed in 1953. Among the new features were 14 classrooms, auditorium, home economic facilities, and a gymnasium.

Princess Anne County Training School was the first and only high school for “colored children” in Princess Anne County, Virginia, which is now known as the city of Virginia Beach. Under the Princess Anne County Training Association, the county’s African American parents, communities, teachers, churches and community organizations raised money to purchase property to build a high school to provide better educational advantages for African American children in the county.

Princess Anne County Training School later expanded in size and the facility and was renamed Union Kempsville High School in 1962. In 1969, the high school closed after city-wide integration of schools started in Virginia Beach. The last class graduated in 1969.