Returning to Learning: Travelers Rest Academy to open Aug. 8 in Vicksburg

Published 4:00 am Sunday, July 17, 2022

In 2001, Travelers Rest Academy opened its doors to 15 children.

Several years later, after the student population grew to 175 children from 6 months to 6th-grade, the school closed because of what school founder and Director Janet Watts termed “complications.”

On Aug. 8, 15 children will walk into the classroom at Travelers Rest Academy and revive the educational experience that began 22 years ago.

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“These children will be my nucleus to build on,” Watts said. “Fifteen must be my lucky number.”

The idea for the school began in 2000, with Travelers Rest Baptist Church’s previous pastor, the Rev. Thomas Bernard.

“He said we have a lot of students here and he said we needed to start our own school,” Watts said. “By him saying that, and I was an educator I said ‘OK,’ so we started the school.

“We got a lot of help from Porter’s Chapel Academy when we first began,” Watts said. “They showed us how to get accredited and showed us how to get this school started in a Christian way.”

Bowmar Elementary, she said, helped when Traveler’s Rest got ready for reading and science fairs by allowing the school to hold its fairs at the school.

At the time, Watts said, Travelers Rest Academy “was a great school; well-known all over Mississippi.

“We’re trying to get it better than it was and it was good,” she said. “You can ask people around Vicksburg, and they’ll tell you it was a great school and they’re very happy it’s coming back.”

One of the school’s supporters is Mayor George Flaggs Jr., whose grandchildren attended Travelers Rest.

“It prepared them for public school,” he said. “I’m an advocate for early childhood education, I don’t care who’s responsible for it. I think it’s so important for the future development of children as it relates to education.

“I think they (Travelers Rest) did a great job of preparing young kids for entering public school,” Flaggs added. “They had an excellent reading program and discipline.”

Watts said the academy will open with students in kindergarten through fourth grade with plans to expand in 2023 with daycare through 6th grade.

“I’m excited about teacher orientation,” Watts said, adding orientation begins Aug. 1.

The school will hold a ribbon cutting on July 28 and have parent orientation on Aug. 7, the day before school opens.

Tuition is $300 per month and while 15 children are presently enrolled, she expects more children to enroll after school starts. The school year will run for 10 months, from Aug. 8 to May 30.

Watts said the students will wear uniforms each day except Friday when students, faculty and staff will wear the school T-shirt, blue jeans and tennis shoes.

“We take a lot of field trips,” she said. “We go to other schools and go have competitions; most of them in Jackson. I hope we come back doing the same things this time.”

The school will use the Abeka curriculum, which is a Christian education program.

“Everything is Christian, including the Bible,” Watts said. “We are non-denominational as far as school is concerned, but the church is Baptist.”

“We will not teach Baptist doctrine,” said the Rev. Dr. General Bryant Jr., Travelers Rest’s pastor.

Bryant said he is excited about the school’s return.

“I’ve heard a lot about school life,” he said. “Prior to coming here from Tallahassee, Fla., I did my research on it and they had a lot of positive things to say about the school. I also talked to local officials and a lot of them came through this school or their children came through this school. They are very excited.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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