The current or “new” Churchland High School opened on Monday, January 6. 1992. This building, located at 4301 Cedar Lane, replaced former schools that had occupied several sites in Churchland since 1799. The school has seen several name changes. First known as Craney Island School, then Sycamore Hill High School, and finally in the late 1850’s as Churchland.
In 1840, a two-room school, the Sycamore Hill School was established. This structure was eventually moved a short distance and eventually became the custodian’s home after a more suitable school building was opened. Fourteen years later, the school was again rebuilt and received its official name, Churchland School. This name, created by John S. Wise, an early storekeeper, together with John Bidgood and John S. Wright was given to the newly established Churchland Post Office and the school in 1853. The name of Churchland has been retained since that time.
During the Civil War, the school was closed, but limited schooling was offered at the parsonage of the Baptist Church and taught by the Reverend, Mr. Reuben R. Jones.
In 1873, a private school was started in Churchland by the local farmers who felt that their children needed a higher education than what was offered in the public schools at that time. Endowing the school with $1,500, James H. Carney expressed his desire that the funds were “To be invested with the proceeds applied with the benefits to the school.” The Academy existed for forty years before it was absorbed into the public school system under Norfolk County.
Churchland Academy, a three-story brick structure, was built in 1922 to replace the wood frame building that had been destroyed by fire. This new building housed grades one through eleven. This school was eventually to become an elementary school and would remain active as such until 1986 when a new elementary school was opened on River Shore Road, next the Churchland Middle School. (Image above from the 1945 CHS Trucker yearbook, foreword).
Churchland High School opened in the fall of 1954, on a thirty-two acre tract of land facing Western Branch Boulevard (now High Street West). The student population grew so quickly that within two years, a new cafeteria and a twelve-room addition had to be added. The stadium, with shop and teaching facilities, was built in 1958. (Image below from the 2003 Churchland High School Alumni Directory, page vi).
Churchland High School became part of Portsmouth Public Schools in 1968 as a result of the annexation of part of the Western Branch District of Norfolk County. The student body was split between Churchland High and the newly formed Western Branch High in Chesapeake. In 1971, a satellite zone was established and students from that area became part of Churchland High’s population.
In 1990, construction on the current Churchland High School began. Although, the school was scheduled to open in 1991, the building was not occupied until January, 1992. The first Churchland graduating class, the class of 1909, consisted of four people. The projected number of graduates for the Class of 2006 was three hundred and eighty-two. We just “Keep On Truckin”!
Nickname, Symbols, Mascot, and School Colors
The origin of the Churchland mascot and nickname, Truckers, dates back to the early 20th century. By the 1920’s, the area west of the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River had become a rich farming region. Family farms grew potatoes, peanuts, corn and other vegetables to be sold at market. Boats and barges were able to travel into the inlets and coves that lay between the current West Norfolk and Churchland Bridges. Farmers “trucked” their goods, first by wagon and later by truck, to the shores of the river to ship them to northern markets. It is from these large farms and the surrounding village of the 1920’s and ‘30’s, that the Churchland athletic teams acquired their nickname the Truckers.
Although the official school seal pays tribute to Craney Island and Sycamore Hill schools in addition to bearing the name Churchland, the symbol most often associated with the Truckers in recent history has become the capital “T” with the overlaid lower case “C”. This symbol can be found throughout the school, often emblazoned on a more modern truck, a large eighteen wheeler such as those used in trucking today.
Unlike schools which have chosen a person, animal, or character as a mascot, Churchland’s mascot is now a truck, in honor of the truck farmers of the locale. The style of truck seems to change and grow through the years, as have truckers themselves, but the tribute remains the same.
Orange, black, and white are the official Churchland High School colors. The most frequently used combinations are the orange and black.