The town of Red Oak is believed to have gotten its name because of the many groves of red oak trees, some of which still stand on the current school’s playground providing shady areas for play and discovery learning. Red Oak is a rural community strongly influenced by community members who are proud of the school and consider it a hub of the Red Oak community.
The first school to be built in Red Oak was situated where the current Baptist Church now stands, directly beside the existing Red Oak Elementary campus. This one room schoolhouse was erected in 1838 and was donated by early landowners for the purpose of "free learning and worship".
In 1870, a two-acre plot was granted by the Hilliard Estate and thus began the Red Oak School system.
In 1901, a local minister, Rev. G. W. May established a boarding school for girls in Red Oak.
In 1907, state public high schools were established through an act of the NC General Assembly. High schools were to be established by petition to the State Board of Education through the County Board of Education. Red Oak was the second school in the state that applied for and received funds offered under this act, thus becoming a public high school in 1907.
The General Assembly passed another act in 1911 that would promote better rural high schools by establishing Farm Life Schools. Red Oak became the second Farm Life School in North Carolina around 1914.
The Red Oak community voted for a $20,000 school bond issue to construct a new building with an auditorium. Full time home economics and agriculture teachers were employed. Mr. K. H. McIntyre, making Red Oak the first rural school in the state to have electricity, also installed an electric plant.
Three dormitories provided housing for out-of-town students and staff. One of these buildings, which later became the teacherage, still stands across the street from the school and is currently an apartment building.
In 1916, Red Oak High School was accredited by the state and the school grew rapidly in academics as well as athletics. Football, basketball and baseball became major influences in the lives of its students and in the Red Oak Community. The school won several state championships in baseball and football and was runner up in the state finals in basketball on numerous occasions.
In 1933, the old wooden high school structure was destroyed by fire being replaced by a modern brick building. During the year of 1941, part of the wooden structure remaining was declared unsafe and condemned. It was torn down and the present brick building was erected. Two additional wings were added in the forties and fifties.
Red Oak High School continued to flourish through the mid-sixties when it became Red Oak Elementary School. Another fire on March 17, 1980 destroyed several classrooms and the office area. Following this fire, the school was closed for only 3 days with temporary classes being set up in the auditorium, gym, and the library for the remainder of that school year and the following year.
The basement was renovated in the early to mid nineties thereby creating three classrooms, a teacher workroom, testing room, lead teacher office and a storage room. As of 2004 we no longer use the basement for classrooms.
The sixth grade was relocated to the new Red Oak Middle School, situated directly behind Red Oak Elementary school in August 1998 giving Red Oak Elementary the current organizational structure of grades K-5.
Today, Red Oak Elementary School is located on 15 acres of land and only serves students in grades K-2. Third grade through fifth grade students attend Swift Creek Elementary School. Currently Red Oak Elementary serves about 250 students from Red Oak, Rocky Mount, Dortches, Battleboro, and Nashville. Red Oak Elementary's school mascot is the bear, hence the reason we call Field Day here Bear Day.