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Halls Ferry school being razed

[1/4/03]Chalkboards, stage lights, auditorium seats and bricks were in piles after a wrecking crew on Friday began tearing down a school building that stood since 1952.

“A little piece of my heart is at still at Halls Ferry Elementary,” said Linda Herrod, who was principal of the school from 1988 until 1991.

The school closed in 1999, along with four others, when the Vicksburg Warren School District opened Dana Road and Sherman Avenue elementaries.

“It’s sad to see it coming down,” past student Sheri Little said. “But you have to make room for progress.”

The old school at Halls Ferry and South Frontage Road is near the city’s busiest intersection, Halls Ferry at Pemberton. The building and land on which it sits was purchased for $451,599 by Ergon Properties, Inc. by bid 11 months ago to include in a large tract that will be centered by a Home Depot franchise already under construction.

Ergon Vice President Jim DeFoe said the first priority is for the site to be graded and balanced to open the visibility to the Home Depot site.

He said the company is now on “full tilt” reviewing several different options for the school site. Immediately east of the school is the city’s large Halls Ferry Park complex, much of which is built on a former city garbage landfill, and a fire station relocated from farther south on Halls Ferry.

Tentative plans for the school site include a 50,000-square foot retail center and DeFoe said the company is talking to other contacts about other possibilities.

“The site is only 6 1/2 acres, so we are trying to see how it all fits,” DeFoe said.

Guyla Gould, Halls Ferry principal from 1983 to 1988 and again from 1991 to 1992, said she was sad to see the building torn down.

“But it’s better than watching it gradually fall down,” she said.

Both past principals recalled that the school was recognized nationally by the U.S. Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon School for the 1985-86 school year. The program began in 1982 and recognizes outstanding schools across the nation.

“I will always remember that,” Gould said. “I believe we received the award because of the staff, the support staff and the cooperation and support we had from our parents.”

Herrod said of the memories she had as a teacher and principal at the school, the Blue Ribbon award is what she thinks of most.

“Receiving the Blue Ribbon was a great, great honor,” Herrod said. “It was a privilege to work there as a teacher and it was even more a privilege to work there as a principal.”

“We did a lot of good for children,” she said.

The school district has also advertised the former Culkin Elementary for sale, but got no bidders. It is under lease to entrepreneurs who are growing worms there.

This district stopped using Grove Street and Bovina schools as well, but uses Grove Street for administrative programs and a parent center and Bovina for the Center for Alternative Programs.