Our Vision and Mission
Providing an engaging, relevant, and rigorous education for every one of our students
Skyline School is on the national registry of historic sites in the state of Alabama. The building was established in 1936 as a part of the Roosevelt plan for recovery from the depression. Eleanor Roosevelt visited the site of Skyline farms personally.
Skyline Farms was one of those efforts to build a "new world" in rural America. This was to be a world in which tenant farmers, hit hard by the depression, would become self-sufficient landowners and live in an idyllic village. The program was conducted in the Appalachian region of Alabama in Jackson County on Cumberland Mountain. It was started by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration in 1934 and operated later by the Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration. Skyline Farms, carved out of the mountain wilderness, was one of some forty "farm communities" established during the Franklin Roosevelt Presidency.
The federal government acquired some 18,000 acres of land for Skyline Farms, a project which initially was called "Cumberland Mountain Farms". The program was intended for out-of-work tenant farmers and participants were carefully screened in regard to character and work records. These families were to have a new start in life by acquiring a home and eventually their own 40-acre farm. The program also provided work for the unemployed in the area through construction of roads and buildings. Additionally, the government built a small factory at Skyline, and then leased the facility to a private company. The factory added more jobs to the Skyline community.
Planners of Skyline Farms, however, went beyond economic rehabilitation and pursued the age-old American dream of the Utopian rural village, where people would live and work in harmony. The community store, for example, was set up as a jointly owned cooperative and a group hospital insurance plan initiated. A school was built at Skyline and it became the center of community activities. Participants were encouraged to form a sense of community through involvement in art and crafts projects and recreational activities. An offshoot of this was the Skyline Farms musicians and square dancers who were invited to Washington D. C., to perform for President and Mrs. Franklin Roosevelt at a garden-party at the White House. Some music historians date this as the first performance of American folk/country music at the White House.
Skyline participants were expected to work for what they obtained. They helped clear their land and build their homes. In return they were paid wages for their labor. Although specific transfer plans were hazy, especially to the farm families, the government settled on a plan in which each family would pay a one-fourth value down payment on their unit, then would sign a promissory note agreeing to pay the balance within forty years at three percent interest.
As with other farm community programs, Skyline Farms was controversial. Detractors labeled such programs as socialistic and compared them to communes, even though the government was trying to transform the participants into independent entrepreneurs. The programs were charged with waste and mismanagement and despite the good intentions of the project; few of the selected families were able to acquire their units. Most families could never make the one-fourth down payment and finally, under pressure from Congress, the Farm Security Administration in the mid-1940's ended its farm community programs and units at Skyline were sold to private buyers. Sadly, Skyline Farms families who could not make their down payment were forced to leave their homes. Only two of the some 200 families were ever able to buy their homes and land.
Skyline Farms did have its benefits, however. It carried many families through the worse part of the Depression and people received adequate health care, food, clothing, and housing during very hard times. Many participants learned skills at Skyline Farms that permitted them to find work as painters, stonemasons, or carpenters after they left the project. And the children of the project obtained educations that would last a lifetime.
Government officials realized that the children of Skyline Farms need a good solid education. This became Skyline School, now the Skyline Elementary School (or the "Rock Building"). W.H. Kessler, one of the best known and most respected landscape architects in the country, designed the school. Kessler used native sandstone that was quarried and cut not far from the school. Construction began on the school in 1936. Project managers hired skilled stonemasons to come to the project and teach their craft to local workers, who themselves did the work.
The building was complete in the winter of 1938, and 420 children began attending the school, which quickly became the pride of the community. A fire damaged the building in 1941, but the damage was confined to the inside of the building, not the original sandstone walls. The building was repaired to its original state and reopened.
After it opened the school soon became a beehive for new educational ideas. For example, teachers at Skyline School were among the first in Alabama to use individualized instruction in working with their students. Also, teachers used a grading system that was an inventory of each child's progress based on their tested ability, another first in Alabama. Skyline School was the only one in Alabama that taught home economics (known today and Family & Consumer Sciences) and agriculture to junior high students. In another experimental program, students in the Vocational Education Program at the school were taught skills by working on various jobs at the project, such as constructing wagon beds or furniture for the homes.
The school also benefited from being a part of a federal program. Workers from the Special Skills Office of the federal government came to the school to provide programs for the children. One Special Skills workers who came to Skyline School was Nicholas Ray who worked with the children and organized the 1938 trip made by 22 residents to Washington D.C. to perform for President and Mrs. Franklin. Ray later became involved in the movie industry and directed movies, including the James Dean film "Rebel without a Cause".
In early 1998 an injunction was filed by a Cumberland Mountain resident and the Alabama Preservation Alliance which prevented the old "Rock Building" from being demolished. In the fall of 1998 the building was listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage.
For the 2015-2016 school year, Skyline High School is home to 470 students, 27.34 teacher units, 1.5 administrators, 1 counselor, and 1 librarian. Skyline High School strives to provide the best possible education to all of its students.