Celebrating a half-century
by James Phillips
Sep 30, 2012 | 2163 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
T.R. Simmons Elementary is celebrating 50 years as a school Friday with several activities planned, including a reception for former students and faculty members, a big birthday cake and a special float in the Walker High School Homecoming Parade. Photo by: James Phillips
T.R. Simmons Elementary is celebrating 50 years as a school Friday with several activities planned, including a reception for former students and faculty members, a big birthday cake and a special float in the Walker High School Homecoming Parade. Photo by: James Phillips
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When T.R. Simmons Elementary School opened its doors in 1962, the school had around 350 students and 12 teachers. Fifty years later, the school now has 540 students, being taught by 40 teachers.

Brack O’Rear, the school’s principal from 1964 to 1991, said he’s excited T.R. Simmons will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this week.

“Naturally, this school holds a great place in my heart,” O’Rear said. “I’ve watched it grow, and I’ve watched the children who have gone here mature. There are so many students from T.R. Simmons that have gone on to be very successful in life.”

Along with growing in its number of students, T.R. Simmons has grown in other ways.

Suzanne Snow, the school’s current principal, said there are computers in every classroom, every teacher now has an iPad, younger students have iPods and older students will soon have iPads.

“Our technology improves each year,” said Snow, who has been at T.R. Simmons for 28 years, with most of that time spent as a teacher.

O’Rear said technology when the school started consisted of chalkboard and white chalk.

“That was the only technology we had,” he said. “We could send 10 children at a time to the chalk board and watch them working the problems.”

The school building has also grown throughout the years. O’Rear said an expansion took place during his time as principal. A major expansion, which houses pre-k, kindergarten and first grade, took place during Jim Clark’s time as principal of the school. Clark said six different construction projects took place during his time at T.R. Simmons.

“We did a lot with the building, but being with the teachers and caring for the kids was the best part,” Clark said. “Being at T.R. Simmons was one of the most enjoyable things that I’ve ever done.”

The school gets its names from the late T.R. Simmons, a Jasper resident who donated the land for the school. O’Rear said the school was originally referred to as T.R. Simmons/East Jasper Elementary School.

“We all just called it T.R. Simmons, so the East Jasper name was dropped pretty quick,” he said.

T.R. Simmons will celebrate its 50 years Friday with several events scheduled throughout the day. Snow said an assembly for current students will be held at 9 a.m.

She said third-graders will perform songs from each decade the school has been in existence, and several students will perform solo songs during the assembly. A big birthday cake will also be unveiled at that time.

Walker High School’s homecoming parade is set for 1 p.m. Friday, and one float will celebrate T.R. Simmons’ anniversary. Snow said students will hold a balloon release as the parade makes it to the Walker County Courthouse square.

When the parade is finished, the school will host a reception for former students, faculty and staff. Snow said anyone that has ever been a part of the T.R. Simmons family is invited to attend.

“Anyone who has ever spent time here is a part of this family,” Snow said. “We all consider ourselves family and it has always been like that.”

Snow said the love within the school is what makes it a special place.

“Technology and things like that are great, but nothing can ever replace the love that penetrates from these walls,” she said.