In 1926, a small school was constructed on the south side of Rowland. The school underwent major additions in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Southside School was originally Southside High School and served grades one through twelve. Southside School integrated in 1968-69 and served only grades four through eight. In 1980-81, Southside School merged with Ashpole Center School thus becoming Southside-Ashpole School which presently serves Pre-K through fifth grade. A former school building across the street serves as the Southside Alumni Building.
In 2017, Southside-Ashpole Elementary was identified by the State of North Carolina as an innovative school. These are schools that have been identified by the state as low-performing schools and have been approved by the State Board of Education to be operated under the Innovative School District. Innovative School Operators work under an ISD contract for five years, with performance expectations that must be met annually. At the end of the contract, the schools are transitioned back to the control and management of the local school district, unless other options are agreed upon by the local school board, the ISD Superintendent and approved by the State Board of Education.