Public education has a long history in Nashville.
Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools officially formed in 1963 with the consolidation of Nashville and Davidson County schools.
Our oldest school presently in operation is Robertson Academy, which opened in 1806. It was this year that an Act of the United States Congress provided for an academy to be built in each of Tennessee’s counties, which totaled 27 at the time. The school has operated continuously since its original opening and today serves as the center for the MNPS gifted and talented program.
In 1821, the City of Nashville began exploring the idea of public education, opening its first public school, Nashville English School, that September. This school did not remain open long, as the idea of public education was new and faced many social challenges.
Thirty years later, the city began re-exploring the establishment of a public school system. After forming a school committee and securing voter support for a tax-supported public school system, Alfred Hume, a well-regarded principal of a classical school in Nashville, was sent to study public schools in other cities. Hume visited several cities, including Boston and Philadelphia, and reported his findings in August of 1852. Hume’s report became the cornerstone for establishing public schools in Nashville, and in February 1855, Nashville’s first public school, Hume School, opened. The school was a three-story brick building. It initially housed 12 teachers and served all grades. In 1874, high school grades were moved from Hume School to Fogg School which sat on an adjoining lot. In 1912, the schools were replaced by Hume-Fogg School which is still in use as Hume-Fogg Magnet High, serving 874 students in grades 9-12.
By 1860, the Nashville Public School System had grown significantly to 35 teachers and 1,892 students. To accommodate the growing student population, Hynes School opened in 1856 and Howard School opened 1859 thanks to donations from prominent Nashvillians Col. Andrew Hynes and M.H. Howard. With the exception of the Civil War period, during which Nashville’s public school buildings were commandeered by federal forces, the Nashville Public Schools system continued to thrive, operating from 1855 until being absorbed by the Metropolitan School System in 1964.
Meanwhile for children living outside of the city of Nashville but within Davidson County, the public school story began in 1907 when the Davidson County Board of Education was created and began coordinating public schools throughout the county. Initially, Davidson County was divided into a number of individual school districts. Six schools from the original county district remain open today as Metropolitan schools. They include Margaret Allen (formerly Rosemont), Antioch, Jere Baxter, Bordeaux, Brick Church and Harpeth Valley.
In 1915, state law mandated the establishment of at least one high school in each county of Tennessee. In accordance with the new law, Davidson County Schools established a three-year high school next door to Eastland School, called Eastland High School. One year after opening, the school added a fourth year and was renamed Central High School. The first graduation ceremonies for Central High were held in May 1918, with 19 students graduating. Up until that point, students living in Davidson County could attend Hume-Fogg High School, or its predecessor, or enroll in a private school. Central High was phased out in 1971.
For more than half a century, these two school systems operated side by side, but completely separately. In 1962, with the creation of a single Metropolitan government for Nashville and Davidson County, the two school systems were merged into one. However, for the first two years, the systems functioned as separate entities under a Transitional Board of Education. It was not until July 1, 1964 that the new Metropolitan Board of Education held its first meeting, with the late Dr. John Harper Harris serving as the first Director of Schools for the Metropolitan Nashville Public School system.