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Outdoor classroom unveiling caps MES’ 90th birthday

Posted: November 5, 2013 5:25 p.m.
Updated: November 6, 2013 5:00 a.m.
Miciah Bennett/C-I

Midway Elementary School revealed its new outdoor classroom last Saturday to the Kershaw County community. Principal Dell Brabham and several alumni from the old Midway School buried a time capsule near the classroom after an annual reunion lunch held at the school.

Midway Elementary School (MES) completed its 90th birthday celebration Saturday with the unveiling of a new outdoor classroom.

The wooden classroom is lined with seating for students; a small water fountain; and, on the floor, the image of a bobcat, surrounded by commemorative bricks of former students and supporters of the school. The outdoor classroom was made possible through a Lowe’s Education Fund Grant. MES faculty Kathy Wright, Selena Jones, Teri Davis and Katie Todd applied for the grant in 2012, MES Principal Dell Brabham said.

The outdoor classroom is just one of many projects completed this year to beautify MES’ campus. A number of community members helped work on MES’s new playground, Brabham said. In April, volunteers, parents, grandparents, students and faculty all pitched in and spent some time revamping the school. In a matter of about two hours, everyone helped to pull weeds, clean windows, plant flowers, paint tables and birdhouses and placed one-of-a-kind stepping stones handmade by students. Todd, who helped coordinate the renovation in celebration of Earth Day, said the day was a great way to get students outside and they are looking forward to what they can accomplish next year.

The outdoor classroom is placed within walking distance from every MES classroom, but close enough to a wooded area that students will have access to nature, Brabham said.

“We really want to encourage students to explore nature. This isn’t just for science classes, students in a math class can go out and use the classroom too, “she said. “We thought it would add to our campus and curriculum.”

MES faculty has discussed ideas for creating a natural trail, as well as a vegetable and butterfly garden, in the near future, if funding is available, she said.

After cutting the ribbon on the new outdoor classroom, Brabham and several alumni placed and covered a time capsule that will be uncovered at the school’s 100th anniversary celebration in 10 years. The capsule includes pictures of current staff; news articles from years past; 90th anniversary T-shirt; essay by MES’ current student body president; and memorabilia from the early 1900s, including class rosters.

MES, formerly known as Midway School, was built in 1923. The school served as a high school until the late 1960s. More than 20,000 students have passed through MES during the last 90 years and the school is currently at its peak enrollment with 403 students. Before the outdoor classroom ribbon cutting, some MES alumni enjoyed a reunion luncheon. Saturday served as the year’s second gathering of MES alumni. In March, MES hosted a look back at old photos and memorabilia. More than 200 people attended the spring celebration.

Gene Gordon, co-planner of this year’s reunion, said their reunions are growing every year. Barbara Stevens, the other half of the planning duo, said she was pleased with the turn-out this year. They’ve previously held the reunion in various locations, but from now on, the reunion will be held on the first Saturday in November at MES.

Kershaw County school board Trustee Louis Clyburn, whose mother is a MES alumna, emphasized the importance of supporting the Kershaw County School District’s Phase 2 referendum during the luncheon. District administrators recently held six community meetings throughout the county to help inform Kershaw County citizens about Phase 2 options. MES will not undergo any changes during Phase 2, as its art, music, multipurpose and restrooms were renovated or added during Phase 1. Baron DeKalb Elementary School will either be renovated or consolidated; the only option for Bethune and Mt. Pisgah elementary schools is consolidation; and North Central middle and high schools will have options for additions and renovations.

Harvey Stuart Teal, Bobby Jones and Brabham also spoke during the lunch.

Teal said it’s “good to be home,” in a place with so much local history. Teal talked about how his lessons at MES have popped back into his head while he discovered various coffins on Otter Island. He also recounted his memory of being at MES during Pearl Harbor near Christmas 1941. Teal ended that story saying “peace and goodwill” to all MES alumni.

 Jones said MES faculty and staff have always cared about how they perform. Jones retold the story of how he started teaching at MES and how he eventually became the principal in 1969, where he remained until 1991. Jones said his experience at MES and his ties to the school since then has been a “wonderful journey.”

“We’ve come a long way,” he said.

Gordon, who introduced all three speakers, said MES is lucky to have Brabham as a principal, as she is “dedicated, focused and loves kids.”

Brabham told alumni that their legacy lives on through their active participation in current student’s lives, and support with the various fundraisers MES holds throughout the year. Eighty-four percent of students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, Brabham said.

MES earned the highest Elementary and Secondary Education Act Report Card score, with 97.7, in KCSD this year, according to the S.C. Department of Education.

“We have an outstanding staff and students and your support means a lot,” she said. “I didn’t know Cassatt existed three years ago, but I’ve fallen in love with this place.”

Any Kershaw County resident, Midway School alumni or family member of an alumni can purchase a $35 commemorative brick to pave the floor of the outdoor classroom, Brabham said, but must have at least 50 requests to place an order. The $35 brick includes two lines of 18 characters; additional lines can be requested for $3 a line. Checks should be made out to Midway Elementary. Please put “brick sale” in the memo section of your check and be sure to include what you would like written on the brick. Mail checks to: Midway Elementary, 1892 Hwy. 1 North, Cassatt, SC 29032. Please contact the school if you have additional questions at 432-6122.

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