Oxford Area High School is one of the oldest high schools in Chester County and one rich in tradition and history. We celebrate over 100 years of educating the youth of Oxford Borough, Upper Oxford, Lower Oxford, East Nottingham, West Nottingham , and Elk Townships.
Education in the Oxford region had its beginnings in the 18th century, not long after the first settlers established homes and farms in colonial Pennsylvania. Three noted private academies, New London and Fagg’s Manor in Chester County and Nottingham, in Maryland, instructed young men who were bound for professional careers such as ministry or law. Pennsylvania established free schools for all children in 1834, but the course of study supplied only an elementary and intermediate education, and public high schools were found only in the larger cities. Secondary education in the Oxford area continued to be provided by private schools, such as the Hopewell Academy for boys, which operated in the former borough of Hopewell two miles west of Oxford. Our community also had the Oxford Female Seminary, where young women could prepare for careers as teachers. The 1834 law mandated that every city, borough, and township in the state establish its own school district. Each of the townships surrounding Oxford maintained several one-room schools, while the borough, more compact in size, had only one schoolhouse. It stood on the corner of South Fifth Street and Hodgson Street.
After 1860, when the railroad first came through Oxford, the community’s population started to skyrocket and a new school became necessary. A grand new brick structure, built at a staggering cost of $8,000, was completed in 1868. It housed all of the borough’s students, who were divided into several divisions, such as Primary, Intermediate, and Grammar schools. In 1876, when the school first issued report cards, there were a total of 9 grades in the building. In 1880, Oxford first awarded diplomas to the students who successfully completed the course of study. The first graduating class was made up of five young women and one young man. Their certificates read “Oxford Grammar School,” for the name High School did not come into use until 1882. Oxford’s high school used one room of the borough schoolhouse. The principal, who also supervised the teachers of the lower grades, taught it. Females continued to dominate the classes for the first 20 years of the school’s existence, with women making up ¾ of the school’s graduates. Because Oxford continued to grow in the early years of the 20th century, a new school building was constructed at the corner of South Fifth and Hodgson Streets in 1905. All of Oxford’s children, from the youngest through the high schoolers, were housed in this new building with one exception: African-American children in grades One through Eight were taught separately in the old building. Only in the high school years did the Black children join their white age mates. This type of racial segregation, common in American in those years, ended in Oxford in the late 1940’s, as if anticipating the famed 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which ended separate schools. Serving the community for half a century, the 1905 building began to suffer from overcrowding by mid-century as the Baby Boomers started to reach school age. In addition, Pennsylvania created a monumental change in public education by ordering the consolidation of the municipal schools into larger regional districts. By merging the schools of East and West Nottingham, Upper and Lower Oxford, and Elk Townships with those of Oxford borough, the new Oxford Area School District was born in 1952.
A large building program in 1954 saw the new district construct an elementary school and a high school on a campus adjoining the old Oxford School. Within ten years an Intermediate School, one of the earliest ones in Pennsylvania, was added to the campus; now, for the first time, the high school did not have to share its space with the lower grades. Now another 50 years have passed, and the current high school building has seen many changes while maintaining continuity as a central institution in the Oxford community. Striving to serve the needs of all of its students, the school offers a wide comprehensive curriculum that will prepare students for further study or for a vocation. Specialization and a growing student population have required the addition of demountable classroom buildings, and the advent of computers has seen a wiring system that provides Internet access for everyone. Music, dramatics, and the arts continue to be popular student activities, while in athletics a host of new teams and facilities enable more students to wear the Oxford Maroon and White in competition.
In 2005, OAHS moved from its original location within the school cluster on 5th Street in Oxford Borough to a new facility on Waterway Road in East Nottingham Township. The new school building allows us to continue to provide exemplary programs for a diverse student popluation.