Symington, Johnson Elementary Schools Close
By John Sharp
Closing ceremonies to allow former students and staff to reconnect and reminisce were conducted June 8 at Johnson and Symington Elementary Schools and at the Freshman Center in the Hickman Mills School District.
The event at Symington drew the largest crowd by far as hundreds of former students and staff attended, including several staff members who had worked at the school for decades. Those attending looked through memorabilia including pictures, scrapbooks and yearbooks at tables covering school activities ranging from the 1950s and 60s to the present decade.
District officials attending the Symington event included School Superintendent Dr. Yolanda Cargile and new school board member Richard Abram II, whose wife Dana Mae Abram taught at the school for several years as her first teaching job.
The Hickman Mills School Board voted to close the schools due to concerns about declining enrollment and a desire to increase the District’s fund balance. Closure of multiple schools was opposed by several community groups and city and state elected officials who represent areas in the District.
Cargile said in an interview with this columnist that the District is consulting a commercial realtor for advice on future use of the elementary school properties.
The Freshman Center was located in the former Hickman Mills High School along with Smith Hale Middle School which taught 7th and 8th graders. Under a reorganization plan, 9th graders will be transferred to Ruskin High School starting in the upcoming school year, and 6th graders will be transferred from elementary schools to the Middle School.
For Johnson Elementary School, this closing is its second. The school opened on September 3, 1957. It closed in 1982 and leased to the Marion Laboratory Company. It reopened as a school in the mid 90’s.