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‘Welcome home’
Lugoff Elementary opens doors to community
LES - Ribbon Cutting (Web).jpg
Former Kershaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan and current Superintendent Dr. Shane Robbins (both holding scissors) cut a ceremonial yellow ribbon on the multipurpose room stage of the new Lugoff Elementary School on Jan. 24. The ribbon cutting capped off the official grand opening and dedication of the school, which opened to students on Jan. 8. LES Principal Melissa Lloyd (fifth from right) holds the ribbon along with school board members. - photo by Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Proclaiming 6 p.m. on Jan. 24 “a moment that we have been waiting for, for a very long time,” Lugoff Elementary School (LES) Principal Melissa Lloyd said the school “has served as a beacon for the community” for more than 50 years having taught the area’s doctors, lawyers, teachers and more.

That evening, LES officially opened its doors to the community, nearly four weeks after students began attending classes in the new facility, immediately next door to the one they left near the end of December.

“Many of you in this very room tonight have graced our halls and gone on to be successful in whatever vocation you have chosen. It has been our honor and the honor of those who came before us to help mold the mind of thousands and thousands of children and it is our pledge that we will continue this legacy of excellence in the years to come,” Lloyd said.

She said that as a former member of the Clemson University Board of Visitors, Lloyd recalled how the university’s president would start off every meeting by saying, “Welcome home.”

“If you are a former Lugoff Elementary faculty or staff member, principal or student, we ask that you please stand so that we might recognize you and say to you, ‘Welcome home,’” Lloyd said, and most of at least 400 people gathered rose to their feet.

In thanking those who made Jan. 24 possible, Lloyd thanked her students for being the “bright spots in her day, every day.” She also thanked “behind the scenes workers” who helped to make Jan. 24 possible as well, saying that each and every one of them hold a special place in her heart.

Next Lugoff-Elgin High School Color Guard presented the American and South Carolina flags, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance led by LES Beta Club and Student Council President Griffin Proctor and the National Anthem led by the LES Singers.

Ahead of his invocation, Kershaw County Board of School Trustees Chaplain Derrick Proctor talked about being a former LES student from 1968 to 1973.

“I still remember those teachers that helped me to succeed in life: Ms. Norris, Ms. Johnson, Ms. Collins, Ms. Logan, Ms. Brown, our principal, Mr. Falls. We had the opportunity to make pot holders, volcanoes, we had to memorize our times tables, we learned fractions. I was able to write a report on Abraham Lincoln,” Proctor said. “That part of my time here at Lugoff Elementary I will never forget along with the memories I made with friends. We attended school from 1st Grade all the way through 12th here in Lugoff. It was great times and I’m still having great times right here in Lugoff and what a great night tonight is.”

Shortly thereafter, Kershaw County School District Superintendent (KCSD) Dr. Shane Robbins introduced another LES alumna as the night’s guest speaker: State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk, who said that attending events like the one on Jan. 24 are the best part of her job as a state representative -- especially when she got to see classmates from “way back when.”

“I am very grateful to have a vantage point that allows me to see so many instances of committed citizens striving together for excellence,” Funderburk said. “I have to say that the view here this evening is particularly good.”

She recalled that it was the beginning of the 1980s when her school career began at LES, including with “the Letter People.”

“And that was in Patrice McCloud’s kindergarten class. I loved the Letter People … Mr. T with the tall T, or Mrs. A who sneezed ‘achoo’ all day long,” she said.

Funderburk also said she was fortunate to have many teachers who are still part of her life nearly 40 years later -- adding that she couldn’t believe she wrote that number down. She named a long list of them before speaking specifically about her 4th Grade teacher, Brett Pendrod.

“(He) gave the gift of reading to us every day after lunch. He introduced us to such classics as ‘Where the Red Fern Grows,’ ‘The Westing Game’ and ‘The Call of the Wild.’ This reading time was truly one of my favorite memories of Lugoff Elementary School,” Funderburk said, also recalling several teachers who have passed away.

Another memory was the day the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after lifting off 33 years ago on Jan. 28, 1986.

“I was in Mrs. Logan’s 5th Grade class. We were all so aware of the launch because it had been heavily promoted that Christa McAuliffe, a member of the shuttle crew, would be the first teacher in space,” Funderburk recalled. “Mrs. Logan understood the historical importance of the event and had secured a TV for the class. We were all very stunned by the event and watched the news coverage in silence for the rest of the afternoon.”

In addition, Funderburk spoke of former principals Mary Jones and Amy McLester.

“These educators never ceased caring for me after I left Lugoff Elementary. In fact, they continued to be my mentors, offering words of encouragement and support even today,” Funderburk said.

She also recalled the fashion and pop culture of the day: leg warmers, jelly shoes, Care Bears, early Madonna, Cyndi Lauper and Duran Duran.

“But my class did have something very much in common with the current classes and that is we had run out of room,” Funderburk said. “In fact, my 2nd and 3rd Grade classes were all held in portables and by the end of my 3rd Grade year, an expansion and renovation had just been completed.”

She acknowledged that LES has continued to struggle since then with an ever-expanding student population.

“But as I look around and as I drove up today, I can tell that this school should be able to accommodate this student and then some,” Funderburk declared.

She said the new school is open and a new home for its students only because the community came together to make it happen. She concluded with words from Benjamin Franklin: “An investment in knowledge pays the best dividends.”

“I am sure Lugoff Elementary School will be paying our community the very best dividends in the form of inspiring in our students the curiosity, imagination, work ethic and collaboration skills that will create our work force and chart our future,” Funderburk said. “With today’s ribbon cutting, it feels like we’re waking up to new possibilities and greater visions for Lugoff Elementary School and, indeed, the entire community.”

Laurie Funderburk Remarks

Audio of State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk's full remarks at the Jan. 24 grand opening and dedication of the new Lugoff Elementary School.

Following Funderburk’s remarks, LES 5th Grade student Kryston Newman recited a poem. Funderburk then returned to the podium for a moment to present American and South Carolina flags to Lloyd that had flown over the S.C. State House. The LES Singers performed again, followed by school board Chair James Smith leading those attending in a service of dedication for the school.

“When I look out among us, I see that we have community, collaboration and teamwork. Over the last two years, I’ve worked very hard with the team sitting over to here to my right,” Smith said, indicating other school board members ahead of the dedication, “and we travel the road and journey with our administrators … that’s preparing our children to a place in a global economy.”

Smith went on to recognize former KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan for putting things into place that led to the Jan. 24 dedication. He then expressed his thanks that the district has a new superintendent in Robbins who, he said, “is very humble” and then said what matters the most is “how we prepare our children.”

Smith then asked the audience to give a round of applause for Robbins who, he said, “will lead us in the years to come.”

Following the service of dedication, Moseley Architects presented a ceremonial “key” to the school to Lloyd. The audience then heard closing remarks and an invitation to tour the school from 5th Grade student Kristian Alexander, and witnessed a ceremonial ribbon cutting at the front of the stage in the gymnasium where the ceremony took place.