Front row from left: Ab Edwards, Arthur Griffin, George Cleaveland, Bessie Anderson, Nettie Reese, and twins Helen & Belle McKinney. 2nd Row: Charlie Anderson, Jim Cleaveland, Charlie McKinney, Walter Reese, Will Cleaveland, Jim Munger, Ed Anderson, Georgia Edwards, Tina Anderson, Pearl Brown, Frank Henry (the teacher's brother), Bessie Reese, and teacher: Mae Henry. Photo courtesy of Highlands Historical Society.
In 2020 US News and World Report Magazine ranked Highlands School in the top 12% of all schools in North Carolina and in the top 14% of all schools in the United States. Between 2012 and 2020 Highlands School was listed in the top 15% of all state and national schools. The School also established itself as a leader in athletics. Between 2001 and 2021 Highlanders brought home 36 conference championships in Boys' Soccer, Girls’ Soccer, Boys’ Basketball, Girls’ Basketball, Golf, and Volleyball.
Highlands School continues its unique brand of education as one of two K-12 schools in Macon County’s public school system. Every senior who graduates from Highlands School receives a scholarship from the Permanent Endowment Fund. Highlands is one of the only schools in North Carolina that provides funding like this to encourage higher education among its graduates.
Photo of Highlands School from a 1968 annual. This 3rd Highlands School was built in 1950-51 in Muddy Bottom off Pierson Drive and still serves the youth of Highlands.
Photo of Town Clock School. It replaced Highlands Village School when it was built in 1916-19 on Knowledge Hill where the ABC Store stands today. All 6 schools in the Highlands District were consolidated into this building in 1928, and it crowned the town with its impressive architecture.
Photo of Emmons Industrial School in 1925. It replaced Shortoff School when it was built on the hill above in 1906, but it's gone today. Prof. Harbison wrote a personal account of the tragic lightning strike at Emmons Industrial School on Sunday, July 20, 1913.
Photo of Flat Mountain School. It existed 7 miles from Highlands on Flat Mountain Road beyond the end of today's pavement and to the left. Natalie Georgia Sato, whose home is near the original site, is seen astride a pony beside the school in 1932.
Photo of Broadway Gap School in the 1940s, courtesy of Marie Reese. Teacher Beryl Morgan of Franklin with her class. It used to exist 7 miles from Highlands on Turtle Pond Road across from where the road forks up the mountain.
Photo of Clear Creek School. Existed 5 miles from Highlands on Clear Creek Road near the Sassafras Road intersection. Home today of Jack and Carrie Crain. Photo in 2006.
Photo of Horse Cove School in1898. It existed 5 miles from Highlands on Horse Cove Road to the right before the Whiteside Cove Road turnoff and is a home today. Left to right are Leonard Hill, Genelia Speed, Sallie Wilson, Lena Wilson, Mary Edwards, Hoyt Hill, Simon Speed, Radford Morris Hill, Carrie Edwards, Edna McKinney, John Edwards, Barnett Wilson, Garse Edwards, Lafayette Speed, and Fannie McKinney.
Newspaper photo of Highlands Village School. It was built by Arthur House in 1878, where Town Hall stands today and was where Professor Thomas Harbison established Highlands Academy in 1886 as one of the first public graded schools in North Carolina. Its 360-pound bell still rings the time of day above the current Town Hall.
Photo of Shortoff School, which functioned from 1882 until the Emmons Industrial School on the hill replaced it in 1906. The building still exists five miles from Highlands across from the Shortoff Baptist Church.