The following are articles by Charlie Sedman are extracted from The Central Connection:
On Friday September 6, 1907, Central High School opened for registration at the old Ridgedale School on the corner of Peachtree St. and Bennett Ave. Central thus became the first high school in Hamilton County to offer a four-year curriculum (City didn’t adopt a four-year program until 1912) and the second county high school (Tyner opened the following Monday). By September 19, registered students totaled 156, and this number would grow to 230 by mid-year, and then to 306 by the end of the year, aided by the promotion of 76 area eighth graders to the ninth grade at mid-term, as the new building opened. [Central would not move into the new building, designed to accommodate 500 students, until January 6, 1908.]
The new Hamilton County Plan (1906) was to have one four-year high school offering a full college prep diploma with peripheral high schools offering three-year certificates, requiring all students seeking a diploma to complete their fourth year at the new central high school, thus the name Central High School. Of course this was very difficult for students living in the Soddy and Sale Creek areas, so in short order their schools, along with Hixson and Tyner, were expanded to a full four-year program. But the original central school retained the name Central High School. So now you know.
The majority of Central students in the early days were mostly nearby, i.e, within walking distance or a streetcar ride from school, meaning that students from areas north of the river or well east of the ridge had some logistical problems getting to Central. Teachers and students mostly lived in the Glenwood-Ridgedale-Highland Park-Eastside-East Chattanooga area. A very few of the notable early grads like Creed Bates (1911) commuted all the way from St Elmo. Very little indication that the farm kids came into town to go to school. Also Soddy, Tyner, Sale Creek, and Hixson then were very small schools by comparison to Central and City; graduating classes in the 1910-20 era were single digits compared to Central and City being near 100 each. In the 1920s more students from Eastdale-Brainerd-East Ridge and Hill City (North Chattanooga) flowed in as those areas transitioned from rural to suburbs. The Hoodenpyl (Signal Mtn) and Olinger (moved from Soddy to Riverview) clans are examples of large rural famililes sending their kids to Central in the 20s as transportation improved. This necessitated the big expansions of the building in 1923 (auditorium and south wing) and 1927 (Science or north wing), and again in 1937 (west extensions off the north and south wings). In summary, early Central students were mostly urban kids and did not have to choose between school and farm chores. This is also the reason the rural high schools did not field competitive athletic teams for decades – fewer students and limited time for after school activities, e.g. gym was athletic team practice.