Baton Elementary School is located in the North Catawba Township in the southern end of Caldwell County. The school is situated just off the Connelly Springs Road in the center of the Baton community, which lies midway between Cajah Mountain on the north and the Catawba River on the south. Before the turn of the century, the community could boast of only one store (a two-story building with a basement and a post office), three small churches (North Catawba Baptist, Mountain Grove Baptist, and Union Grove Baptist), two small schools (Lutz School and Bean School), and very few homes.
By the turn of the century the Baton community was made up of large farms and large families. Baton Elementary was formed on the present site in 1915 with the consolidation of the Lutz School on the eastern edge of the community and the Bean School on the west side of the community. The land for the school was donated by William J. Bean and Waitsel M. Smith, both of whom served on the local school board for many years.
The first Baton Elementary structure was a white wooden building, which contained three large rooms, a larger foyer, a stage, two smaller rooms used for a library and storage rooms, and two "cloak rooms." Folding doors divided the three large rooms. They also unfolded to make the three large rooms into an auditorium with the stage in the center.
At the time the building was considered one of the best in the county. The center of community activities, the auditorium was the site of school programs, debates, literary contests, political meetings, community plays/other activities, and speeches by many well-known men of the county and state. It was also the place where Baton residents were introduced to "picture shows," which people enjoyed as much as the community plays.
At first the school had three teachers and approximately one hundred students. Teachers often lived in rented rooms in homes close to the school. Ten grades were taught until the state took charge of the school. Some students furthered their education by attending Rutherford College some four miles away in Burke County. Later Hudson became the high school for Baton students.
During the late thirties one of the smaller rooms was converted into a classroom and a fourth teacher was added.
In 1941 the enrollment had grown to one hudred fifty. The need for more space resulted in the construction of a new and larger facility. It was ready for occupancy in September 1942. The new brick building consisted of six standard classrooms, a library, an auditorium, an office, restrooms, and a lunchroom in the basement. During World War II when many men were overseas in the armed forces, sixth grade students like Wayne Bolick, Fred McCall, and Steve Smith took on the duties of custodians. They would arrive at the school as early as 4:00 a.m. to fire the coal boiler so that the building would be warm when other students arrived.
As community landowners began selling their property and housing developments increased, more people moved into the area. Again, the school was faced with a lack of adequate space. Even the office and the library became additional classrooms.
In 1952, a west wing consisting of two classrooms each with a restroom was added. A new lunchroom was built where the present gymnasium is located. The former lunchroom, which was located under the present multi-purpose room, became a boiler room.
The community and student population continued to grow rapidly. In 1956, four new classrooms and a new library were added. The new library quickly became another classroom. In 1962, another building program added four classrooms, a science room, and a large new lunchroom (the current lunchroom). In 1967, two temporary classrooms were added. During the summer of 1971 the auditorium was renovated into a media center, which at the present time is the multi-purpose room. In 1972, the first mobile classroom was added. The room was located immediately behind the present cafeteria and housed approximately 30 second grade students in its first year of use. As enrollment increased, four mobile classrooms were added north of the other buildings.
To accommodate the needs of steady growth in student enrollment, changes were made to the structure and to the instructional program. A science storage room was converted into a reading room in 1974 to accommodate a reading specialist. A music teacher, a paraprofessional in physical education, and a guidance counselor, all part-time, joined the staff also in 1974.
On July 1, 1974 the Caldwell School System and the Lenoir City School System merged into the present Caldwell County Schools System. In the fall of 1974 the first kindergarten class for Baton Elementary began.
In 1977-78, two new high schools were completed. Both new schools, South Caldwell and West Caldwell, would now serve as the high schools for Baton students. The building, which had formerly been Hudson High School, became Hudson Middle School. Seventh and eighth graders from Baton along with seventh and eighth graders from Sawmills, Whitnel, and Hudson were emerged with the ninth graders to form Hudson Middle School. Baton became a kindergarten through sixth grade school.
As the Baton community continued to grow and new housing developments were created, plans for a new facility were initiated. Caldwell County voters passed a School Bond Referendum and bids were opened in November 1997 for a new three and one-half million dollar building. The old structure would continue to be used, and the new additon consisting of sixteen classrooms, office complex, and media center would connect with the older building through the use of covered walkways.
In October 1999, the new facility was opened. Sixteen classrooms in kindergarten through fourth grade occupied the space. One fourth grade class and three fifth grade classes were moved to the west wing. The old media center became the multi-purpose room and classrooms in the old building were assigned to Art, Exceptional Children, Speech, Academically Gifted, Music, and Parent/Teacher Organization. One classroom became a storage room for instructional supplies. Guidance was assigned the old office space. One computer lab was also added in the old building. Mobile units, originally used as classrooms, became the site for daycare.
Several other changes have been made. In 2004, a second computer lab was added in the same building. One west wing classroom that was used to store desks and chairs became a fifth grade classroom. Part of the old main office became an ESL classroom/teacher's office space. PTO purchased and installed two areas of new playground equipment.
In the summer of 2005, one boiler under the old facility was replaced. Underlying mold and sub-floor (formerly the auditorium) under the Multi-Purpose Room were removed, and the walls of the room itself were repaired. The former library shelves were removed. An additional parking lot was added to the west side of the new building near the bus parking lot. Murals were added to hallways of the new building, one wall of the Multi-Purpose Room and to the cafeteria in 2005-2007. The weather damaged belfry of the older structure was replaced in 2007. As a safety measure, in 2006-2007 aluminum fencing enclosed the playground and cafeteria entrance with wrought iron enclosing the main entrance to the new building. In 2006, PTO provided new awning over the sidewalk in front of the older building to protect car riders from rain/snow. Also in 2006 smart room technology was installed in all classrooms, media center, and Multi-Purpose Room at the direction of retiring Superintendent Tom McNeel. Wooden windows in the older buildings and cafeteria were replaced in three phases during the summers of 2008-2009. Since 2010, the "old building" received a makeover with a new blue metal roof and the hallways were painted our school colors.
In the summer of 2011-2012, security cameras were installed throughout our campus for the safety of our students, staff, and facility. Over the years, our school and PTO have purchased Smartboards for all K-5 classrooms.
For the 2013-2014 school year, a Pre-Kindergarten classroom was added. With the Pre-K classroom requirements, came a new playground and new fencing to the school. The old school bell was refurbished in 2010 by Lynn Beane and son Thomas. It has now been mounted at the front of the old building. A new concrete sidewalk was also poured at the front office entrance with new landscape making the school more welcoming!
Since its beginning in 1915, Baton Elementary School has conitnued to be a leader among educational institutions in Caldwell County. Some of the past leaders have been principals and assistant principals:
- Mr. Gordon Keller
- Mr. Carl McGee
- Mr. Clinard Brooks
- Mr. H.D. Gragg
- Mr. John L. McCurry
- Mr. Brooks Barber
- Mr. Ted Watson
- Mr. Malcolm Laxton (Assistant Principal)
- Ms. Peggy Lowdermilk (Assistant Principal)
- Mr. Jack Hoke
- Mr. Wayne Crowe
- Ms. Katie Justice
- Mr. Keith Hindman
- Mr. Jason Teffeteller