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South Jefferson Elementary School plans 40th birthday bash

September 14, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • South Jefferson Elementary School students Cord Davis, 9, and Zoe Dinges, 5, are shown next to the school sign this week, which reminds people about the school's 40th anniversary celebration on Saturday.
Photo by Richard F. Belisle

SUMMIT POINT, W.Va. — In 1971, four small southern Jefferson County elementary schools, Middleway, Summit Point, Kabletown and Rippon, were replaced by a new building outside Summit Point.

That fall, students in kindergarten through fifth grade from those four old schools walked into brand new South Jefferson Elementary School, opening a new chapter in Jefferson County education.

On Saturday morning, students, teachers, parents, administrators, former students and teachers will gather at the school to throw a birthday celebration.

Vicky Smith, a refugee from the three-room Middleway Elementary School, was among her new school’s first fourth-grade class.

“I remember that it was a big change for us,” Smith said. “It was intimidating. There were a lot more children. They had a cafeteria, too. At Middleway we had to get in the lunch line and take our trays back to our desks.”

She said her old Middleway school building was sold and turned into a private home.

Last September, a new nine-classroom wing opened at South Jefferson. Gone are the portable classrooms, said Rick Jenkins, school principal for the last seven years.

“We have no students outside,” Jenkins said. “We’re all under one roof.”

The addition didn’t take in any new students, it just made room for the more than 500 that were already there, Jenkins said.

“We’ve gained about 200 students just since I’ve been here,” he said.

As of Tuesday, the student population stood at 534, he said.

Among the school’s 60 staffers are 26 classroom teachers plus administrators, supervisors and service staff, he said.

The school received a grant to build a one-mile fitness trail and wetlands education site off the addition plus an outdoor classroom in what was an empty grassy courtyard between it and the original building. It’s designed to foster social skills by allowing students to gather together outside, mingle and get to know each other, said Keri Mahoney, South Jefferson’s head teacher.

Saturday’s celebration runs from 9 a.m. to noon. There will be displays of student projects and yearbooks dating to the school’s first year.

A highlight will be filling a time capsule, to be opened in 2061, that will hold letters the students are writing this week explaining their lives today, their favorite TV shows, music, prices and whatever else they can think of to tell their counterparts a half-century from now.

Fourth-grader Cord Davis, 9, was impressed Tuesday when told that his school is now 40 years old.

“Boy, that’s old,” he said. “That’s almost as old as my mom.”

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