Old school building being renovated

Published 10:05 pm Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Cooler school: Renovations to the old E.M. Henry School in West End include replacing old fold-out windows. The rooms were previously heated and cooled by window unit air conditioners but now have central heating and air.

Renovations to the old E.M. Henry School are the latest in a series of improvements to the West End community.

The school has been the home of the Clanton Head Start program for about a decade, and the preschoolers enrolled in the program will no doubt be better off because of the project.

Antiquated windows that had held up noisy air conditioners have been ripped out in favor of glass that can seal in the breeze created by central heating and air conditioning.

Also, the doors to most of the classrooms before were exposed to the elements. Now, a covered walkway has been created in front of the school.

“We had to walk in the rain to the lunchroom,” said Brenda Sawyer, who has been working at the center since it opened at the location.

Fellow Head Start employee Chris Laister said children are safer because of the renovations and that more community members would want to bring their boys and girls to the center.

“It gives the community a sense of pride in where they go to school,” Laister said.

Work on the school began in the spring, and Clanton City Councilman Greg DeJarnett, whose District 4 includes West End, estimated the project would be completed in November.

The Head Start program is a federally funded effort to prepare children from low-income families for public schools by teaching them social skills.

About 40 kids ages 3-5 are enrolled in Clanton’s program and are split between two classrooms. Each room has a teacher and an assistant.

The Head Start staff in Clanton also includes a bus driver, two cooks and two administrators.

The E.M. Henry School lunchroom can also serve as a community center because of the renovations, DeJarnett said.

West End residents have pitched in to complete the renovations, which are being paid for by the city of Clanton. DeJarnett also thanked Mayor Billy Joe Driver and the rest of the council for their cooperation with improvements to the school and with several additional projects in West End.

Several of those local workers—including Park Director Darrell Bolding, Henry Witcher, Quentin Rogers, Royce Rogers and Lenard Rogers—are also instrumental in West End youth sports leagues.

“I want to really praise their efforts,” DeJarnett said. “It has revived the park, given children something to do constructively.”

A new concession stand at the park sits between several baseball and softball fields, some of which also feature new lights. And new sidewalks have been put in among the fields and the school.

“This facility had been down here for years, basically falling in, and it needed some work,” DeJarnett said. “I’m glad we were in a position to be able to fix it up a little bit.”

DeJarnett has also been involved in efforts to remove abandoned houses in West End and a $500,000 sewer project.