Four Chilton County Schools named Bicentennial Schools

Published 12:55 pm Tuesday, August 21, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Four Chilton County Schools have been named Bicentennial Schools and received a $2,000 grant, bringing the total the county received to $8,000.

Maplesville High School, Thorsby High School, Verbena High School and Jemison Intermediate School will use the funds for projects focused on contributing to the community and celebrating the state’s 200th Anniversary.

Verbena will use the funds to pursue a designation as a historic landmark on the state historic registry and to send students to state conferences.

Michael Martin and Tom McCall, former teachers at Verbena, were a part of the planning.

McCall said Verbena had been a place for those in Montgomery to get away for the summer.

“Verbena School — the building is a landmark, it truly is a landmark. It had been a hub of the community, the pride of the community,” McCall said. “It is what has brought the community together.”

Teacher Leslee Deavers and her students have been compiling history of the school and the area. They have created a database and plan to interview members of the community to record their stories.

McCall said many of the teachers at VHS attended the school as students. Teacher Kelli Muncher said several of the students’ parents also attended the school.

“One of the things we have been lacking is opportunities for our students to experience things,” Muncher said. “So one of the things that we wanted to do was to send a student to HOBY (Hugh O’Bryan Youth Leadership conference through Troy University).”

They also hope to send a student to the American Legion’s Boys State. A partnership with the American Legion has paid for a student to attend Girls State for the past few years.

“The kids love being nominated,” Muncher said.

Over the summer, teachers and staff did some needed interior renovations at VHS. Muncher said this has set a positive tone for the school year.

“The kids are excited. They love what we have done already with the changes and they love that the faculty is taking an active involvement in the school,” Muncher said.

The school is also working to clean up the historic class pictures and have key years displayed in prominent places.

The three remaining schools (Jemison Intermediate, Thorsby and Maplesville) will be celebrating by honoring Alabama agricultural heritage through garden projects.

Thorsby elementary counselor Christian Cochran said the garden project will include a hands-on teaching component tending the garden as well as presentations by farmers in the community. Cafeteria staff will also teach students about cooking the vegetables grown in the garden.

Cochran said FFA teacher Brian Lucas was instrumental in applying for the grant.

MHS agriculture teacher Joe Dennis said the school will be doing a raised bed garden with kindergarten through second grade.

“My 11th and 12th graders will be teaching them about vegetable gardening, and we will be growing some stuff they can eat,” Dennis said. “This will be a yearlong project. We will be working with them at least once a month, sometimes twice a month, depending on the weather and where we are with our crops.”

The grant will be used to buy tools for the students, fencing, soil and other supplies.

Dennis said the fence will keep deer from eating the vegetables.

The school’s Family and Consumer Science teacher will work with students on how to prepare the vegetables to eat.

The project was started last year through some other funding, and will be expanded this year.

“The younger kids really look up to the older kids … the older kids really get into it and I think it makes them proud to know they have learned something that they can pass on to the younger kids,” Dennis said.

JIS Principal D.J. Nix said he had heard about the grant opportunity through an email and passed the information along to Rachel Mims.

“She took it and ran with it,” Nix said. “We are in the preliminary stages of our outdoor classroom coming together … I knew we needed that grant.”

Enrichment/STEM Teacher Rachel Mims said the project would include seven raised beds, one of which will be handicap accessible.

“The children are going to raise vegetables and donate them to Son Light Center in Jemison for a service project,” Mims said.

The center gives food to those in need.

The grant will fund the materials for constructing the beds, as well as plants and rocks.

The outdoor classroom has been a project for the school for the past two years.

Jemison High School agriculture students will be building the raised bed gardens. Mims expects the beds will be ready in the spring.”

There are also plans to partner with Jemison Elementary School to have their students involved.

Thorsby also used some of the grant funding to paint each of the bathrooms with colorful themes and inspirational sayings, such as “Be a rainbow in somebody’s cloud.”

University of Montevallo students and Thorsby First Church volunteered time to help with the painting.

“It is really just us trying to get the community in the school, and I think that was a big part of what the Bicentennial is about,” Cochran said.