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Students celebrate Redfield memoriesOriginally Published May 16, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated May 15, 2013 at 10:49 a.m.
REDFIELD This is Helen Moseley’s first year to teach at Redfield Middle School — and it will be her last.
On May 31, the 75-year-old school will close, and next year, the students will catch the bus to White Hall Middle School.
Moseley said teaching at the school in its last year has been special for her. She, like many of the 1,200 residents of Redfield, was a student at the school.
“I am thankful to God that I had the opportunity to teach here,” she said.
“I teach in the room where I went to second grade,” she said, standing in the hallway near the school’s northern door. “It was a school for grades one through nine in those days. I started first grade in that room across the hall, and you worked your way down the hall, year after year. When you got to the other end, you were ready to graduate to high school.”
Moseley — Helen Harper in her student days — said being back at the school has been quite an experience.
“Just walking down the halls and into the classrooms gives me a rush of memories,” she said. “The entire school carries the echoes of my classmates.”
The teacher of sixth-grade English, reading and mathematics said the school brings back many memories for her, including those of Principal James Kight.
“Mr. Kight was here when I was a student. His mother was a teacher, and his wife taught in what is now my classroom,” Moseley said.
James Kight has been a teacher or principal at the school since 1967 and was a student at the school starting in 1948. His children and grandchildren also attended the school.
“When I was here, it was all one school, one to 12,” Kight said. “Then it was an elementary school until 1977.”
When he was a teacher, Kight taught social studies, math and science.
The principal said perhaps the most memorable day he had at the school was in the mid-1980s when a coal train jumped the railroad tracks next to the school.
“I heard the wreck and walked down to the tracks,” Kight said. “It looked like a war zone, and I remember seeing a train car out in the woods.”
He said it was interesting to watch how the railroad brought in new tracks and cleared the scene.
For a while, the school operated as Redfield Junior High School with grades six though nine; then the ninth-graders were moved to the high school, and the Redfield building was designated as a middle school. The building was built as a WPA (Workers Progress Administration) project in 1938, replacing a former church that was turned into a school in 1914. School officials said they thought there was a school in the community even earlier. The Redfield school system joined the White Hall School District in 1949.
Former students and teachers of Redfield Middle School and members of the community are invited to a party on the school grounds on Saturday, and they will get to walk the halls of the school one more time.
“We’ll get people in,” said school secretary Donna Oates, organizer of the event. “This may be the last time they will see it like it is now.”
Oates, whose children both attended the school, said she started planning the event as a social for the students and parents, and it turned into a reunion as people wanted to come and reminisce at the school before it closes and is torn down.
“I don’t have any idea how many will come,” Oates said. “On Facebook, more people said they would come, and people have come by saying they will be there.”
A few former students and faculty who are musicians or singers offered to perform at the reunion, and soon, a multi-act concert was planned for the event.
“We’ll have barbecue, and people can visit,” Oates said. “We hope we will have good weather. If it rains, we will move to the auditorium, but it only seats 180 people.”
The school’s closing, ordered by the White Hall School District Board of Directors in January, has been controversial in the town.
News that the school would close brought to the forefront the deep-felt loyalty of members of the community, most of whom had attended school in the brick building.
A task force of Redfield residents at first tried to keep the school open, but after the order was made to close the school, they looked for ways to use the building for a community center or charter school. However, after an inspection of the schoolhouse, it was found that the structure is in bad condition, and it would be very expensive to bring it up to standards.
Members of the task force said the Redfield school had gone without the maintenance and repair funds that were given to other schools in the system.
“This community has always been the red-headed stepchild,” said Todd Dobbins, a member of the citizens group that hopes to save the building.
Following the community reunion, the school will hold its last awards day on Wednesday, and May 30 will be the school’s field day and talent show. Redfield Middle School will close after classes on May 31.
Even after 47 years at Redfield, Kight said, his career will not end with the school.
“I think I am going down to the middle school a half day and then a half day at the high school as an assistant principal,” he said. “I will eventually retire, but that will be when I get old.”
The Redfield School reunion, variety show and social will be held at the school from 3-8 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call the school at (501) 397-2253.
Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or email@example.com.