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Students and community work to get school on historic register

What started as a Learn and Serve project at McKenzie School turned into a community-wide project with the goal of putting the school’s original building on the Alabama Register of Historic Landmarks.

“This just got bigger and bigger and spilled over into the gifted classes at the school,” said principal Randy Williams.

Teachers Kristy McIntyre, Judy Smith and Patty Cook worked with the students to assemble photos and historical information about the community school.

Students went out into the community and spoke with residents who talked about the school’s history and shared anecdotes of their own school days. They also put in many hours of research in order answer all the questions required by the state organization, McIntyre said. “The students had adult guidance, but did the work themselves and had a really good time,” she said.

Artifacts from the school’s history, such as vintage desks, were discovered in area homes and photographed by the students.

Cameras were adapted to allow Special Services students to participate in the event, while students in the afterschool program helped scan in photos. Students from 3rd through 8th grades and some high school students all played a role in the project.

“This was a great learning experience for our kids,” said McIntyre.

“And the folks in the community really seemed to enjoy reliving the old days with the children. It was a good experience for McKenzie all around,” Williams said.

Two Learn and Serve students, Gary Likely and Austin Weathers, actually gave a Power Point presentation on the history project during a convention in Montgomery, a task ordinarily handled by teachers.

“They were the first-ever students to present at one of the conventions. They used the technology to incorporate photos and to add voices to the presentation, which presented the story of our school,” McIntyre said.

“It was a tremendous success. We had other schools asking us how to get started on their own history projects.”

The school will have to be given formal board approval before finalizing their efforts to get the school on the state register, Williams said.

“We do have one more required submission, and that is a floor plan of the school, which they are working on now,” the principal said. ‘We’ve already verified in writing our renovations are allowed to be registered, so we are hoping the board will see fit to OK this soon.”