By Jody Stewart
While some schools in our area are busy gathering for graduation and celebrating with their students and their families, there are two schools in our community where facility, staff, students and their families are gathering for another occasion.
Five Points Elementary School and J.P. Powell Middle School bells will ring for the last time at the end of this school year. Both schools have served as corner stones of education in West Chambers County. In many cases multiple generations of the same families have walked the halls of these two schools and now these families come together to reminisce and visit their schools one last time.
The closing of these two schools is part of the school consolidation being proposed by the Chambers County Board of Education, which is a reaction to the longstanding case, Anthony T. Lee et al v. Chambers County Board of Education.
Five Points Middle School is a K-8 institution serving the community of Five Points. One long time faculty member Deanna Fuller has stated “The great thing about being a part of Five Points School is being treated like family. Five Points is a family that is supported by the community. It has been an honor to teach the students of this community for 25 years. When you love what you do, you don’t consider it a job. It’s a blessed calling!”
The student population of Five Points Elementary School has averaged between 102 and 140. At Five Points Elementary School, 45% of students scored at or above the proficient level for math, and 55% scored at or above that level for reading. The school’s minority student enrollment is 42%. The student-teacher ratio is 15:1 operating cost of 17,541 per student.
J.P. POWELL MIDDLE SCHOOL Is a sixth grade through eighth grade school with a student population of 138. US News statistics report that 17% of students scored at or above the proficient level for math, and 17% scored at or above that level for reading. The school’s minority student enrollment is 91%. The student-teacher ratio is 13:1, which is better than that of the district. The student population is made up of 49% female students and 51% male students.
J.P. Powell opened its doors for students in 1919. The school was built on land purchased from Nepton Adams and his wife Lucy who were the largest black landowners in LaFayette at the time. The first graduation was held in 1928. The original school burned and was rebuilt in 1949. An expansion was made during the tenure of John P. Powell (1954-1976)
The school ceased being a high school in 1969 with the dismantling of the state’s dual system of public education. Grades 4-7 remained at the school and the name was changed to Southside Middle School. Later, the 8th grade would return to the building from the high school. With the beginning of the 1995-96 school year, grades 6-8 were located at the present building and continue to be housed there today.
Grades 4-5 moved to Eastside Elementary. On November 14, 1999, dedication ceremonies were held re-naming Southside Middle School-John P. Powell Middle School in honor of long-time educator and principal Mr. John Perry Powell.
The schools held separate open houses that were both well attended. Students that attended expressed a range of emotions and feelings to the changes being made. Those emotions were fear of the unknown, sadness of the loss of what they knew to excitement of what was to come.