The end of the school year is bittersweet for students, teachers and staff members at Beckham Bates Elementary.
Everyone is looking forward to a long summer break, but many people are also looking back on 51 years of memories at the school, which will shut down this Friday, May 4.
“This is a really sad time,” said Veletta Martin, an administrative assistant at Beckham Bates. She attended the school for eight years and has worked there 21 years.
“I went to school here. My children went to school here. It’s just hard to believe this is happening,” added Martin.
Martin said she is concerned about the future of the school building.
“I hope it is taken care of,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to see it boarded up or dilapidated because it really is the heart of this community.”
Martin and several others who work at the school have their own ideas of what should become of the old school building.
“ I would love to see it turned into a community park,” said Martin. “Everything is in place. We have beautiful grounds, great facilities including a basketball court. I just want to see it kept alive.”
Students are also speaking out on the closing of their school.
T.J. Gibson is a seventh grader at Beckham Bates. Next year he and his classmates will be transported to Letcher Elementary for their eighth-grade year.
“I’m a little nervous about that,” said Gibson. “We have a lot of adjustments to make.”
Gibson worries about making new friends and not being able to take classes with all of his close friends at Beckham Bates.
“I hope everyone gets along and I think they will,” added Gibson.
Like Gibson, seventhgrader Trevor Mullins said he will miss playing sports for the Tigers.
“It is going to be a big change and a big challenge for all of us,” said Mullins.
The Beckham Bates students were recently taken to Letcher School to meet and spend time with students there. Teachers say the aim was to allow students from both schools to get acquainted. They say it went very well.
Two big events are taking place this final week of school at Beckham Bates.
The Mission of Hope will be there on Wednesday (today) to sponsor a party for the students.
The group from Knoxville, Tenn., adopted the school many years ago.
Graduation night is Thursday evening at 6 p.m. Diplomas will be presented to the Class of 2012 — the very last class to graduate at Beckham Bates Elementary.