Farewell to Southwestern

Published 10:27 pm Saturday, June 7, 2014

During the last week in which Southwestern Elementary School will welcome hundreds of children through its doors, the school is opening those doors to everyone to reminisce.

From 7 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, the school will be open for tours and will host a meet-and-greet, a musical program and a “roll call” of classes through the decades.

Second-grade teacher Paula Dozier came up with the idea and presented it to principal Christopher Phillips, she said.

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“I asked if we could do something for this community,” she said. “I’ve been teaching in the Holland community for about 30 years. It’s been a great place to live and work, and this school means so much. This is a way of saying thank you to the community.”

Education has been taking place at the site since 1924, when the Nansemond County Training School for black students was built as part of the Rosenwald school building program, which funded the construction of schools for black students throughout the rural south using money from Sears, Roebuck and Co. leader Julius Rosenwald.

A former school on the property, Little Fork School, had been on the estate of William Jackson Copeland, who had the vision to provide a site to meet the educational needs of black children, according to a history provided by Dozier.

The original building was destroyed by fire, and that’s when Nansemond County Training School was built.

In 1956, a new building was constructed, and the name was changed in 1964 to Southwestern High School, which actually included grades one through seven, as well.

In 1970, Southwestern graduated its last senior class in the spring and, in the fall, became an intermediate school housing grades four through seven. In 1979, it became a middle school serving grades six through eight. In 1990, the school entered its final iteration as Southwestern Elementary School, with kindergarten through fifth grades.

“This campus has been providing an educational service for 90 years,” Dozier said. “There’s not too many public education facilities that can say that.”

Dozier said everyone is invited to come see the building for the last time before the school division packs up and moves to Pioneer Elementary School.

“Anyone that has passed through this building in any capacity, whether it’s a student or a teacher or a cook or a custodian or a bus driver, they’re all welcome to our program,” she said.

Meanwhile, Dozier will be saying goodbye to education permanently.

“As they’re packing up to go to Pioneer, I’m packing up for retirement,” she said.

For more information on Wednesday’s event, call the school at 934-6213.