“I hope they are just as excited as I am, they have such an opportunity,” Laney Stevenson said as she sat in the media center of the new Main Elementary School building. “This is awesome, simply awesome. We didn’t have this kind of facility.”
A graduate of Main High School, the area’s all black high school which closed in 1969, Laney and her husband John Stevenson were a part of the first 12th grade graduating class of Main in 1954, and returned Thursday night for the ribbon cutting and open house of the Main Elementary School’s new building.
“It’s so nice to have come full circle,” Esther Vaughn, former student, teacher and principal of Main, said.
Vaughn spoke to those gathered outside of the building and shared some of her memories of the school. Rome City Schools Board Chair Faith Collins spoke about the history of the school, how it was founded in the late 1800’s and still exists in name down the hill from where the high school stood. Collins talked about the process to build the new building, from the groundbreaking to the ribbon cutting, and the community support along the way.
“Main is a goal and a vision,” she said.
“We are so thankful for the outpouring of support from the community which is evident throughout this entire beautiful building,” Tashia Twyman, director of communications and public engagement for RCS, said. “I am so thankful for this day.”
Once Superintendent Lou Byars cut the ribbon to the school, parents, teachers and students filled the halls of the new building to tour the $13 million to $14 million school. According to Assistant Superintendent Dawn Williams, the building has around 40 classrooms which serves students from pre-K to sixth grade.
Williams was actually a former principal of Main Elementary School from 2005 to 2008. The assistant superintendent said she was happy for the alumni who returned to school as well as the kids and teachers.
“They deserve it,” she said.
The downstairs of the building harbors classrooms, the cafeteria, art room, music lab and the science, technology, engineering, art and math lab. Nicole Rayburn, the STEAM teacher, spent the open house showing students around the lab. Fourth-grader Jayden Rucker was one of these students and previewed the 3D printers, kiln and projects Rayburn had planned for the year.
Rayburn said she is looking forward to this year being the first time STEAM is taught as a separate class. She has already set her sights on starting a robotics team with the goal to take the school’s students to competitions.
Principal of Main, LaRoyce Sublett, said he plans on having a first day of school assembly Friday morning to get the students excited about the school. Sublett said he would like to do more to get parents and the community involved in the school throughout the year. He also wants to teach his students about their history while letting them make their own, he said.
Alumni from Main High, which closed 50 years ago this month, were sharing their memories of the school along with their admiration of the new building. The Stevensons recalled meeting in the 10th grade, their 59 years of marriage, and the fact their school did not have a library at the time they attended. Laney recalled having to going to the basement of churches to find books.
Evelyn Hamilton, Main High class of 1964, talked with retired Main teacher Betty Mosteller and Cassandra Dennis, Main High class of 1969, sharing memories from their time at the school. The trio were just a few of the alumni present at Thursday night’s open house.
Hamilton attended Main from first grade through 12th, and remembers walking across the street to school every day. Ana Hampton, who was sporting a green and gold Main High Panthers shirt, said the current students of the school now have a wonderful opportunity to learn in the new building.
It means a lot knowing Main is still here, Hamilton said. Schools like East and West Rome, which once barred students like her, are now shopping centers. But Main remains.