By: Robin Koppen
JCPS Communication Specialist
SELMA – The community of Thanksgiving came together on Sunday, October 24, to dedicate Thanksgiving Elementary School. The school is the 24th public elementary school in Johnston County.
Principal Chad Jewett and staff were there to greet students, their families, Board of Education members, and Johnston County Public Schools faculty as the doors were officially opened to Thanksgiving Elementary.
Once inside, guests’ eyes were treated to art created by third, fourth, and fifth grade students under the direction of Visual Arts Teacher Raven Collins.
“I knew from the start that I wanted to flood the walls with artwork and display the folks who make this place a home,” said Collins.
Entitled “Thanksgiving Elementary School Yearbook,” the project consists of students’ self-portraits, drawn by hand.
Collins shared, “the students are the real treasure of any school, and their portraits make for the perfect first work of art to hang up on our walls.”
Guests then made their way to the cafeteria and multi-purpose room for an official dedication ceremony that included a dedication litany emphasizing the importance of community and education in the Thanksgiving community. The litany, written by longtime JCPS staff member and volunteer Dr. Carolyn G. Ennis, was read by a group of fifth grade students.
The Corinth Holder High School JROTC cadets presented the flags for the dedication. JCPS Child Nutrition Services catered the event and served light refreshments.
With 20 years of experience in JCPS, Principal Jewett said his favorite thing about being at a brand new school is “seeing the teachers gel together on the teams that have come from different schools, different districts, and even different states.”
He hopes the students are empowered and proud to be a Thanksgiving Buffalo. “I hope that we’re a safe place for the children and that they enjoy coming to school,” he said.
Jewett’s personal mission is to build relationships with his students and staff. He believes that the power of education is through those relationships.
“The relationship piece within this building is critical,” he remarked. “I’m here to serve my students and staff.”
He plans to enhance the Thanksgiving community through service. “Our purpose is to serve the community well, so that the families trust us to do what’s right for their children,” said Jewett.
The school was built to accommodate the rapid growth of northeastern Johnston County, the fastest growing county in North Carolina. Construction began in April 2020, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, COVID only had a minimal impact.
Brooks Moore, Chief of Facilities and Construction for JCPS, said, “We proactively selected all of our material soon in the construction process allowing plenty of lead time for delivery.”
When onsite, all meetings were held outside and crews were required to spread out on the jobsite and CDC guidelines.
Thanksgiving Elementary features a linoleum floor tile made of natural, raw materials, and does not have to be waxed, therefore saving annually on operating costs and custodial labor. The building utilized energy design features and met the bundle requirements of Duke Energy’s Energy Saver Program, resulting in an incentive payment.
Another exciting feature of the design is the cafeteria. The cafeteria and gym are combined into one space, a multi-purpose room, with a divider wall. This space can be utilized as normal for lunch and PE classes and also opened up to a much larger space for hosting ceremonies and other large gatherings, just like what was done at the dedication ceremony.
When asked about what it felt like to complete this project, Moore replied, “Anytime you can visualize and then build a learning environment that is going to have such an impact on kids for years and years, it’s exciting.”
JCPS Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy delivered remarks at Sunday’s dedication ceremony. Dr. Bracy shared that the school will always hold a special place for him, as it was the first major project he oversaw as superintendent of Johnston County Public Schools.
“The facilities we have in Johnston County Public Schools are second to none,” said Dr. Bracy. “I hope that our community members are as proud of the school, staff, and students as I am.”
The community of Thanksgiving gets its name from Thanksgiving Baptist Church. On Nov. 30, 1899, the church was officially organized. Rev. John W. Suttle, a Baptist minister who roamed the countryside of Johnston County preaching and organizing churches, gave the first sermon.
Afterwards, he suggested the church be named Thanksgiving Baptist Church because the service happened to be on Thanksgiving Day.
Thanksgiving Elementary is one of the 2018 bond referendum projects. More information about all of the 2018 bond projects can be found by visiting the district’s website.