LOCKHART — The Lockhart School Farewell Reunion was a wonderful but also a sad time for those who gathered Saturday to say goodbye to Lockhart School.
The Lockhart School Farewell Reunion was an opportunity for alumni and other former students and their families to pay one last visit to Lockhart School which was closed earlier this month at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
The school’s closing was approved by the Union County Board of School Trustees on the grounds that the average student cost at Lockhart was nearly twice that of Buffalo, Foster Park, and Monarch elementary schools and Jonesville Elementary/Middle School. Another factor in the board’s decision was the projected decrease in the school’s student population from 150 this year to 84 by 2025.
The vote to close Lockhart School was held in March and was 8-1 with Trustee Mike Massey opposed.
In May, the board voted unanimously to approve a request by the Town of Lockhart that the Union County School District transfer ownership of the Lockhart school building to the town. The town is hoping to find a new use for the school that will not only preserve the building but also benefit the community as a whole.
At the same meeting, the board voted 6-2 with trustees Mark Ivey and Manning Jeter opposed and Trustee Betty Joann McMorris abstaining to approve a request by the town that the rental fee for the building be waived for the Lockhart School Farewell Reunion.
The reunion was held Saturday, first at Lockhart School itself where, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., alumni, other former students, their families, other residents, and others with ties to the school were able to one last time visit the school, walk its halls, go into its classrooms and its auditorium. The reunion then continued from 1-4 p.m. at Lockhart First Baptist Church Family Life Center.
Among those attending was Town of Lockhart Mayor Ailene Ashe who said Monday that there was large turnout for the reunion, including people traveled across the country to attend. She said those attending, however, had mixed emotions about the reunion, happy on the one hand to see old friends and to visit their old school, but also sad at the thought of the school being closed and the impact it will have on the community.
“It was absolutely the happiest and saddest of times,” Ashe said. “We saw friends that I was in school with. It was just so many people. Miss Pressley was a teacher at Lockhart and her daughter and her husband drove here all the way from California. My son, Neely Ashe and his wife flew in from Houston, Texas just to come to this reunion.
“It was a wonderful time, but also the saddest of times,” she said. “It was just heartbreaking. We are not just losing our school, we are losing our identity.”
While the school itself could not be saved, the town is hoping to save the school building from the fate of other now closed schools. Ashe said in May the town sought ownership of the building, first, to prevent it from ending up like the Kelly-Pinckney, Adamsburg, and Carlsan schools that were left to deteriorate after being closed. Secondly, she said the town hopes to use the school building as recruitment tool for economic development to bring investment and jobs to Lockhart and has formed a committee to help determine what sort of businesses could go in the building.