“Mr. Stovall, have you seen Ashley?” said Columbia Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) President Bridgette Madison.

“Yes ma’am, she’s in the library waiting for you,” said Stovall.

These are the kind of simple interactions the students and staff of Columbia Elementary School are going to miss after the small community school closes at the end of the school year.

Words like “blessed,” “honored,” and “like a family” were common themes throughout the time of public sharing during the formal goodbye service held at the school on May 9.  For Russell Johnston, who came into Columbia as a second grader when Kent’s Store school closed in 1938, the staff of Columbia didn’t just feel like family, they were indeed his family.

“In almost every one of the six classrooms, I had a relative teaching,” said Johnston, who went on to describe numerous cousins and aunts who were his teachers.  “There was no running water, two outhouses, and a wood shed.  It was the responsibility of older students to carry in the wood every day.”

Originally built as a wooden frame building in 1912, Columbia is the type of school where generations of families claim allegiance.  For no family is this more true than for that of Fluvanna County Commissioner Mel Sheridan, who boasts four living generations of Columbia graduates.  His mother, Mary Jane Sheridan graduated from the school as a seventh grader in 1938.  Mel and his two sons David and Andrew also attended, bookended by his two young grandsons, Drew and Macon, who are currently students at Columbia.

“I had the unique honor of attending both the wooden and brick school,” said Mel Sheridan, who attended Columbia from 1963 to 1968.  “We called teachers by their first names, and there was no cafeteria.  A cart brought lunch to your classroom.”

Staff were particularly moved to describe their memories of the school.  Unlike students, who only spent a handful of years in the building, most Columbia staff served the school for decades.

“It’s been a conversation for many years about closing Columbia, it was an expensive school,” said Betty Holland, who taught fourth grade at the school from 1971 until 1991.  “The school has come a long way, from chalkboards to white boards, and now with computers and televisions in every classroom.  There’s been lots of progress in Fluvanna County.”

Former school secretary Helen Carter was reassigned to Columbia after her son Maurice became the principal of Fluvanna County High School in 1994.

“I thought to myself, I’m going to have 100 grandchildren!” said Carter.  “We take care of people here.  It is my belief that every kid should have the opportunity to attend Columbia School.  You will never find a faculty as loving as you will find at Columbia.”

PTO President Bridget Madison closed the sharing time.  The youngest of her four children will never have the opportunity to attend Columbia.

“The Columbia building maybe closing, but Columbia school is going to stick around in all of those who are here,” said Madison.

The last day of school for the pre-Kindergarteners through second graders of Columbia Elementary will be Thursday, May 30.


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