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New schools celebrated with open houses

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By Jennifer Caldwell

It’s been a year since students and faculty began calling the new Caryville and LaFollette Elementary School buildings home sweet home.  And while everyone has had plenty of time to grow accustomed to the digs the new still hasn’t worn off.

In an effort to show off the two facilities and publicly thank those who had a hand in bringing the dream to fruition the Campbell County Board of Education, central office staff and staff from each school played host at open houses to celebrate the accomplishment.

The damp winter weather did little to hamper the celebration on Sunday as a sizeable crowd gathered outside each school to cut the ceremonial ribbon.

Board Chairman Eugene Lawson was all smiles as addressed the crowd at the Caryville School.

“This is a monument to the people of Caryville and especially the children,” Lawson said proudly.

Caryville Elementary School Principal Sandra Chaniott also took time to thank those who had made the much needed new school a reality.

“This was a combined effort on everyone’s part.  We got so much support from the central office and staff that the transition was seamless,” Chaniott said.

Dr. Judy Blevins, former director of schools, was also on hand for the event.

“Well, I think everything has pretty much been said,” Blevins said opting out of the speech-making as she cut the ribbon before a cheering audience of parents, students, teachers and politicians.

Inside the school Dr. Michael Martin, director of schools, said coming to a system with these new buildings was “a great gift.”

“It’s really a timing thing,” Martin said of stepping into the director’s position so soon after the buildings’ completion. “Now it is my job to be a good steward of all the hard work.”

The celebration at LaFollette Elementary School mirrored the Caryville event with one exception.

In addition to the ribbon cutting ceremony, the school’s library was dedicated to the memory of the late Ken Bruce.

Bruce, who lost his life while serving as one of Campbell County High School’s assistant principals, was once the principal of East LaFollette Elementary.

As his widow Jo Bruce addressed the crowd she said the memoriam was a fitting way to honor her late husband.

“This is such an honor to Ken because one of the things he loved most was reading,” Bruce said her voice wrought with emotion.

Bruce presented the library with a copy of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and laughed at the significance of the book.

The story is one Ken Bruce had read to the entire East LaFollette Elementary School in “froggy boxers and a t-shirt” when students rose to a reading challenge.

“He said it was probably one of the most humbling moments of his life,” Bruce said laughing at the memory.

As Bruce drew her remarks to a close, she expressed her appreciation for the way her husband had been remembered.

“It (the dedication) is perfect and very fitting for a man like Ken,” Bruce concluded.