West Plains High School traces its origin back to before the Civil War. The first school to ever be established in Howell County was a one room log cabin that also substituted as the local church. This building was in such bad condition that it escaped being burned during the Civil War.
In 1880, a new school, called Central, was established. Central was located on the corner of Garfield and Cleveland avenues where the West Plains campus of Missouri State University now holds classes.
The East and North sections were added in 1888. West Plains High School was then permanently established and the Class of 1891 was its first graduating class.
In 1904, Reese High School was established where part of the First Baptist Church is currently located. Ten years later, Central High School was completed, replacing the 1880 structure. Central housed the seventh through 12th grade. Third through sixth grades were taught in the Reese building, and first and second grade were taught at West Ward.
In September 1957, West Plains High School moved to its current location, and the Junior High School was completed in 1967.
West Plains High School had approximately 500 students in 1957, but by the beginning of the new century the ever-changing high school had nearly 1,300 students. The high school consists of students in grades nine through 12 in the West Plains R-7 School District, as well as ninth through 12th graders from the five rural schools that surround the West Plains district - Fairview, Howell Valley, Richards, Junction Hill and Glenwood.
The buildings that now house the South Central Career Center, originally known as the Vocational Technology, or Vo-Tech, buildings were built in 1970-1971.