By Jill Penley
The demolition of the old Shouns School in Johnson County had stirred up a lot of emotions as many were saddened when demolition began last week. Steeped in history, the unique structure was constructed in the early 1930s as part of the “Work Progress Administration” under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The purpose of the program was to provide work for victims of the Great Depression. The building ceased to house elementary students in 2002 when the Neva and Shouns Elementary Schools were consolidated at the new Roan Creek Elementary School. A limited liability corporation associated with Redtail Mountain Golf, RTMP, LLC, purchased the property from the board of education at auction in late 2016.
When faced with bankrolling extensive renovations to older schools, the easy, and in most cases less expensive, way to go is to construct a new building altogether. Older schools often lack proper wiring for technology and do not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Board of Education approved the sale at the October 2016 board meeting for $281,000. There were “numerous, concrete reasons for the sale of the building,” according to Dr. Mischelle Simcox, Director of Schools.
The historic structure sat dormant until last week when heavy equipment sporting large metal claws took the first bites out of what used to house the old school. “The owners had it inspected at first to become a private school, but that was denied due to foundation issues,” said Peter Allen Lawson, Food and Beverage Manager at Red Tail Mountain Golf Course. “They tried to get it approved for several other ideas but was denied due to all the rot and molds growing throughout the building,” Lawson said adding that the brick will be saved and used for other projects.
Some Shouns alumni are heartbroken by the loss including Janie Gentry, who attended Shouns School from fourth to eighth grade after Forge Elementary closed. “I have wonderful memories of my teachers and friends from those years,” said Gentry, who credited Mrs. Elizabeth Snyder, Mrs. Anna Boone Miller, Mrs. Basham and Mr. Ed Grindstaff for teaching her things she still remembers and uses in everyday life. “Maybe I’m just getting soft in my dotage,” she said, “but I have shed some tears this week because of the destruction of the building.”
For Teresa Potter Crowder, the sight of Shouns School being torn down is a painful one because of its sentimental value. “I began as a student teacher there and closed it as the last principal,” said Crowder. “I appreciate all those whom I had the pleasure of working with because that’s where my career began.”
“It will always hold a special place in our hearts,” said Kristy Wolfe, who met her husband at Shouns. “Jason and I both worked there,” recalled Wolfe. “He was a teacher, and I was a substitute. We got to spend a lot of time getting to know each other and eventually marrying.”
As word got around the community, many voiced dismay over not being informed of the sale of the property and the pending demolition of it, however, the 2016 auction was advertised locally, and once privately owned, the property owner has no obligation to inform the public of future plans.