The vision of Waterloo School is to foster a love of lifelong learning in a safe and caring environment.
At Waterloo School we take pride in our community, faculty, staff and especially our students. We are thankful for a community whose first priority is to make sure our students have what they need to thrive. Our faculty and staff provide our students with a nurturing environment and ensure all their needs are met while encouraging the importance of lifelong learning for success. Our students learn to serve our community as productive citizens in return. We encourage our students to actively participate in academics, athletics, and community service. We are a small Pre-K through twelfth grade school offering an exceptional elementary and high school program. Our students are provided with advanced technological tools to facilitate their mastery of 21st century skills as well as tried-and-true procedures that support the learning and success of all students.
When asked what makes Waterloo School unique, our answer is always the same:
We have the best students, teachers, staff, and community, who make us who we are- family.
Town of Waterloo- before 1962, present school site to the right
Situated on the bank of the Tennessee River, this beautiful little town had its beginning around 1819. It is said that there were as many as five different school buildings in the downtown Waterloo area, before a building was erected on the present site. It is believed that the first school would have begun around 1824, when the first settlers migrated to Waterloo. There was an all-girl school in Waterloo in 1872. An article from the Lauderdale Times, February 5, 1872, declared it "A very interesting Female School taught by that Gem of female teachers, Miss Amelia Waits, and we expect soon to have a good male school."
In 1895, Waterloo supported a seven-month school and three teachers. The school building at this time had four rooms and was built on a different site. Captain A.D. Ray was Superintendent of Education at that time and the school was called Waterloo High School. There were as many as sixty students boarding at one time with the townspeople. Many of them came from Mississippi, Tennessee, and the surrounding counties in Alabama.
Pictured Left: Waterloo School- Early 1900s
In 1896, a new school building was constructed and was under the charge of Professor Edwards. The building was a large two-story structure, with an L containing recitation rooms, etc. The town of Waterloo saw a big boom in the timber business during this time and it gave the people in the area more money for their livelihood, as well as more and better schools. An article from the town newspaper in 1897 stated, "There is no future of a town which more quickly induces immigration than good schools." It also stated that "there was already a number one school there, but would like to improve it, widen its scope and strengthen its power."
An ad in the September 3, 1897, issue of the Waterloo Tribune for students by the principals Mr. Edwards and Mr. Reeder:
"This school offers to the people of Northwest Alabama advantages equal to any other institution of its grade. It has a thorough and comprehensive course of study directed by an efficient corps of teachers. Tuition: Primary Dept. mo. $1.35; Intermediate Dept. $1.75; Advanced Dept. $2.35 and Music $3.00. The advantages of attending this school are many. You have the benefit of a moral community as well as a high-grade school and moral training. Boarders are received into the best families of the town, where no pains will be spared to make their stay both pleasant and profitable. A cordial welcome from all our people awaits all who seek entrance to our midst."
The list of available subjects offered at that time were advanced studies in geometry, trigonometry, surveying, physiology, zoology, geology, psychology, chemistry, botany, astronomy, civil government, bookkeeping, grammar, rhetoric, American and English Literature, Latin, and French. First through third grade students were required to bring a slate to school to write on and other grades brought copybooks.
By the 1900s, the school appears to have made great progress. Mr. Rutledge had become principal and worked towards better teachers in the system. Besides regular academics, music and art were taught. By the end of the school year in 1903 there were 159 pupils enrolled with 62 boarders.
Pictured Right: Waterloo School built 1920 at present site
After World War I (1914-1918), the community saw a great need to re-establish the high school. Around 1920, a new building was built at the present site of the elementary building. The land was purchased from D.C. Higgins and his wife, Mattie, for amount of $5.00. The building had six rooms and an auditorium. The first class to graduate from this school was in 1925. The first principal was Miss McMahan, succeeded by Mr. Little. This school led to the consolidation of eleven other schools. In 1928 they ran eight trucks to carry students and had nine teachers. A windmill water system and light plant had been completed for the school in December of 1928.
Principal Roy Shelton from Birmigham brought urban ideas to Waterloo School in the late 1920s. The students were taught to work with their hands and the dignity of labor. In art they studied oil painting, paintex, or cloth painting, opaque work, pottery and carving from Ivory Soap. No other school in the county was using this line of instruction. Miss Sarah Howe had 15 music pupils, teaching them piano, violin, guitar and harp. Miss Howe trained a school orchestra and chorus. Miss Lillian Robinson was head of the Dramatic Club. They presented plays, operettas and pageants. There was a hot lunch stand that was exclusive to Waterloo School (we still take pride in our lunches today!).
Pictured Left: Old Agriculture/Home Economics Building
In 1928, the school got a new Vocational Agriculture/Home Economics building
By 1929, the high school served students in about a 15-mile radius. Students who had not had the opportunity to attend high school before this time were able to ride the bus to school. Prior to the late twenties, they had to board in Waterloo or live there in order to attend. Around this time, the State Educational Department recognized the ability of Waterloo's faculty, as their students were so efficient after graduation. Ninety percent of the graduates entered the Normal school or colleges.
Pictured Right: The new high school building opened in fall of 1936
By 1930, children came from as far away as 26 miles. Two hundred and eighty pupils were being transported to and from Waterloo School. A new brick high school building was erected in 1936 with funds from the Work Progress Administration. It had six classrooms and an auditorium. On October 10, 1937, the new brick building was completely destroyed by a mysterious fire. In 1938, another brick building was erected on the same foundation and a central heating and cooling unit was installed. This served the needs of high school students until 1975 when it was torn down.
Reba Perkins started the Waterloo School lunch program in 1937 by making sandwiches and serving milk in a classroom. The National School Lunch Program was not started until 1939. After that, Reba and her associates continued to dedicate their lives toward making things better for children. Reba and Edna Keel were known to pay for many lunches out of their own pockets to keep a child from going hungry.
Pictured Left: Reba Perkins -- 36 years and Waterloo School; Della Hayes; and Edna Keel -- 30 years at Waterloo School
During the years that the United States was involved in World War II (1941-1945), the school board adopted a school term to begin in August and go for six weeks, then recess for the children to help harvest the crops. The system suffered a shortage of teachers due to some having to serve in the war, and some of them did not have tires for their cars to drive to school.
During the summer and fall of 1947, a large lunchroom was built parallel to the vocational building that accommodated the entire student body and faculty. The school was able to add a modern library in 1949 and also a necessary sanitary system. The new system eliminated the need to leave the building and go out into the rain or cold to the old outhouse.
Pictured right: Waterloo's first gym, built 1952
In 1952, a modern gym was added to our campus. The auditorium was used for special programs that were usually performed by student of different grades and for announcements. Many community members fondly recall the Donkey Basketball games played in the auditorium as well!
Mr. Hagood was the agriculture teacher from 1949-1967 and his classes built a new broiler house to raise chickens in 1956.
Pictured Left: New elementary building built 1962
A new elementary building was built in 1962 and the old white two-story building was torn down.
A new school bus garage was built in 1964 and then in 1966 a new lunchroom and a concession stand were erected.
Pictured Below: Class of 1964 in front of Waterloo High School built 1938
The athletic department was proud to get a new field house in 1975 and new bleachers in 1976. The school had had a football team for 11 years before the Lauderdale County Board of Education authorized the hiring of a band director. The community raised about $5,000 for instruments and the Alumni Association helped purchase uniforms.
The old agricultural/home economics building was torn down in 1980 and a modern vocational building was built the next year. This building is now part of the elementary complex.
A new high school building and elementary addition were built in 1985. The latest addition to our school was the erection of a new gym in 1999.
We take pride in our heritage and our campus at Waterloo. An article in the Waterloo Tribune, September 17, 1897, had some good thoughts on educating our children. The article was encouraging parents to send their children to school and stated:
"It is to their advantage and to yours to secure an education. a man or woman who combats the trials and temptations of life without some education, is like a soldier in battle unarmed. He cannot meet the difficulties without an intelligent knowledge of the necessity of overcoming them. He fights merely for the animal existence, and the intellectual life is not taken into his calculations. For every advantage you refuse to give your child, which you could give him, he will curse your memory in future years or perhaps not in words, but in deeds; in failures and mistakes and false steps."
Pictured Above: Main school entrance, 2022