After years of sending their kids to Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk for a secondary education, black parents in Princess Anne County united to open their own school in the 1930s. Students had to pay $50 a semester to attend Booker T. Washington in addition to transportation and many of them couldn't afford the cost.
Dissatisfied by that option, black parents formed an association and began rasiing money to purchase property for a high school. They eventually bought four acres of land on Witchduck Road. When the county school board made no attempts to establish a high school on the site, parents formed a temporary school at Union Baptist Church. The school initially served grades eight through 11 but eventually expanded to include the 12th grade.
The school board finally approved the high school and in 1938 Princess Anne Traninig School opened with the help of federal funds and donations from the black community. 1938 is also the year the first class graduated from Union Baptist Church.
The original four classroom building lacked some of the resources of white schools. It had outdoor toilets, no cafeteria or science laboratories and only one book - a dictionary - in the library, former students recall. But that didn't discourage them.
The name of the school was changed to Union Kempsville High in 1961. That first graduating class stood at the head of the long line of graduates that stretched in 1969 when desegregation led to declining enrollment and the school closed it's doors. It eventually re-opened as the Center for Effective Learning.
Even though the Virginia Beach school division wants to makes sure the school's legacy lives on the building will be torn down in 2007 to make way for a $65.2 million facility for all the city's secondary alternative programs. However, with the help of a committee that includes school division officials and Union Kempsville graduates, an architectural firm has developed preliminary plans to honor the former school. As proposed, a memorial project would be incorporated into the new alternative facility which is scheduled to open in 2010.