In the beginning...

  • The story of New Brunswick High School begins in 1812, when the young city first set aside funds to purchase a building for a public school open to all local children. This small but eager student body of 143 pupils marked the beginnings of formal education in New Brunswick.

    Over the next few decades, the school moved to ever-larger buildings as more families recognized the value of public education. By the 1850s, civic leader Charles P. Deshler returned from New York City inspired to create a true public school system funded by taxpayer money rather than private tuition or charity. The Bayard Street School opened in 1855 as the proud new home of the New Brunswick Public Schools.

    Within its walls, the upstairs rooms housed the first official “High School Department” where students could pursue studies beyond primary grades. Rigorous courses prepared pupils for business careers or college admission. Girls and boys alike immersed themselves in subjects like rhetoric, philosophy, Latin, geometry and more. Graduation from such challenging curricula brought great family pride.

    In 1875, the growing high school moved down the road to even more spacious quarters on Livingston Avenue. For the next 40 years, students enjoyed amenities like a closed circular fire escape that became a popular slide. Extracurricular activities enriched student life as teens launched one of the first high school newspapers in the United States back in 1883. Named “The Advocate,” it reported on events, sports victories, and all aspects of life as a New Brunswick High School Zebra.

    By 1915 overcrowding again pushed the school to a newer, bigger facility built to accommodate 800 students. Community skepticism about the remote location gave way to enthusiasm as the splendid new building met the needs of a booming enrollment. Seven hundred students plus staff occupied its 30 classrooms that first academic year. During the 1920s and 30s, championship athletics put New Brunswick High School on the map as home of the feared and respected Zebras mascot. State titles and undefeated seasons became a tradition in multiple sports, anchored by support from intensely loyal students and alumni. Academic offerings also increased to prepare graduates for an increasingly complex world, adding practical skills in vocational subjects like automobile mechanics, typing, woodshop, metalwork and home economics.

    Expansion continued with wings tacked on in the 1940s and a major population boom after World War II. Attendance hit 1800 students before a new modern building arrived in 1963 with capacity for 2000. Advanced courses, technology upgrades, specialty programs and alternate campuses kept NBHS at the forefront of secondary education.

    In 2010, the school’s latest incarnation opened on an entirely new site along Route 27. The sleek $185 million complex equipped NBHS for 21st century demands with facilities to match growing enrollment.

    For over 200 years across its various homes, New Brunswick High School has served city youth. Many generations of former students fondly remember finding their futures within its halls through life-shaping lessons, friendships and coming of age experiences. That proud tradition continues today and will endure thanks to the investment of this community in the promise of public education. Wherever its campus may take root, NBHS alumni will always have a home in the Zebras’ house of blue and white.

    Here is a consolidated chronological history of the school.

    Early Days

    • 1812 - New Brunswick purchases a building on Schureman Street to be used as a school open to the public. This is considered the beginnings of a public school system in the city.
    • 1850s - Local leader Charles P. Deshler brings ideas back from New York City to establish a true free public school system. New Brunswick Public Schools is formed.
    • 1855 - The Bayard Street School building opens as the city's main school. The upper floors house the first version of a high school.
    • 1860s - Official High School Department created in Bayard Street School consisting of 3 grade levels. Rigorous college prep curriculum established.

    New High School Construction

    • 1875 - New larger high school structure built on Livingston Avenue. Serves as NBHS until 1915. Features like a spiral fire escape tube make it an innovative building.
    • 1883 - Students found one of the first high school newspapers in the country, originally called The Advocate. It helps cement student life as a core part of the NBHS tradition.
    • 1909 - Manual training and vocational courses introduced.
    • 1915 - As enrollment grows, current NBHS facility opens with 30+ classrooms and an 800-seat auditorium, the largest high school in the area.

    Evolution of Programs, Culture & Campus 

    • 1920s - School's mascot becomes the Zebras, a nod to school colors. Numerous championship-winning sports teams give Zebras fame.
    • 1934 - First driving courses allow students to prepare for licenses.
    • 1940s - Distributive education department, driver's training car, and new wings/additions aim to meet demand.
    • 1960s/70s - Activism and experimental academic programs show up. Alternate campuses house students at times to relive overcrowding.  
    • 1980s+ - Focus on bolstering academics via advanced courses, special support programs, technology upgrades and innovative approaches.  

    New Era

    • 2010 - State-of-the-art $185 million facility opens on Route 27 to usher in latest phase. Old building gets converted to New Brunswick Middle School.

    Over its 200+ year history, New Brunswick High School has expanded tremendously while staying committed to being a transformative place for generations of students. The future is bright as the school builds on its pillars of scholarship, community, school spirit, and advancement toward students' goals. More history is still being written!