By Meg Dickens
The Shady Valley Elementary School Preservation Society received its last bit of paperwork declaring the society an official nonprofit organization earlier this September. The chain of events that put this into motion started back in June 2019 when a called meeting of the Johnson County School Board put Shady Valley Elementary School’s future in question. This nonprofit organization’s purpose is to preserve “the rock school” building and its rich history.
The Shady Valley Elementary School building is a cherished part of the Shady Valley community, and locals fought tooth and nail to keep its doors open. During the fight to keep its doors open at full capacity, Shady residents and allies came together in droves. As the situation escalated from potentially losing two grades to possibly closing the school permanently, public support increased even more. At one point, the Johnson County School Board had to move its meeting to Heritage Hall Theatre to accommodate the crowd, while several others in the usual conference room were standing room only. The Shady Valley Cranberry Festival Committee came together to form this 501C3 nonprofit organization during the chaos.
The final vote to close Shady Valley Elementary was emotional for both Johnson County School Board members and Shady supporters. Community members go back generations, several of them mentioning that their ancestors helped build the rock school. Board members and Shady advocates Gary Matheson and Kevin Long were outnumbered 3 to 2 in the final vote.
“The decision is not easy. I’ve seen tears,” Chairman Howard Carlton explained after the final decision. “I’ve seen the love in the classrooms. We understand that, and we are not in a good position. But it’s a decision that we are responsible to make.”
Under the Shady Valley Elementary School Preservation Society’s name, officials put in a bid for the school building, and, for legality’s sake, the organization bought the rock school from Johnson County for one dollar. Fundraisers like the Cranberry Festival earn money for the building’s upkeep, and the nonprofit status means it qualifies for grants, gifts, and donations.
“This entity was established and designed to form an organization that can receive large gifts, grants, and or donations as required by the IRS,” said Society President Richard Price.
The Shady Valley Elementary School Preservation Society’s first meeting was on September 17, and all future meetings will be on the fourth Thursday of each month at the school building at 4 p.m. For more information, call 423-739-2422.