Old Wesson school work now officially under way

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, November 5, 2002

WESSON — A ground breaking ceremony Monday at the Old WessonSchool made the renovation efforts on the 1839 building officialand gave many residents and town officials a last look before workbegins.

More than 30 people braved the cold, wet day to gather insidethe Old Wesson School’s auditorium for the ceremony.

“This is a very emotional day for me. This is a day I willremember forever,” said Morgan Shands, who serve as executivedirector of St. Ambrose Leadership College.

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The leadership college is expected to open the doors at the OldWesson School in two or three years to about 30 of the state’s mostoutstanding male high school graduates.

Students will attend academic classes at Copiah-LincolnCommunity College. They will reside at the Old Wesson School, wherethey will take leadership, etiquette, financial success and otherself-improvement classes.

“We’re finally going to do something here that’s going to bemeaningful,” said Co-Lin President Dr. Howell Garner, mentioningthat a number of organizations have tried to find a special use forthe building.

St. Ambrose Leadership College will not only benefit the town byhosting such a prestigious and unique opportunity for freshmenacross the state, but also by having the Old Wesson Schoolpreserved for decades to come.

“The concept is wonderful, and I look forward to cutting theribbon and opening the doors in a few years,” said Rep. Dr. JimBarnett, who has been instrumental in securing funds for theproject.

Construction was scheduled to begin last Monday, but inclementweather allowed for little accomplishment during the week.

Town residents were thankful to have one last opportunity toview the school before it is closed off to the public for theintensive renovation project.

Many took the opportunity to walk around the first floor of thebuilding, which closed its doors as a public school in 1959, andreminisce about the many traits of the structure.

“I remember the old, red velvet curtain that hung across thestage,” said Hollis Cowen Jr., who attended the school in the firstthrough eighth grades.

Others talked of how the basement was once a cafeteria withclassrooms on the outer edges, and the first floor contained theauditorium and classrooms, while the second floor had a basketballcourt and classrooms.

The first phase of the renovation project will help preservethose areas by putting a new roof on the building, fixing thewindows and replacing the stairwells.

“What we’ll have is a sealed building, and this building will nolonger be deteriorating,” said Mayor Bill Tigner.

He spoke to the crowd of how he dreamed of fixing up thebuilding when he first moved to Wesson a few years ago. Tigner alsosaid the Old Wesson School was one of the main reasons he decidedto run for mayor, so he could concentrate some of the town’sefforts on the building.

Tigner and Shands complimented town engineer Jeff Knight on hiswork in getting grants for the project, the town aldermen for theircooperation and Garner for allowing Co-Lin to have a partnershipwith St. Ambrose Leadership College.

“All the pieces have come together so brilliantly,” said Shands.”We introduced it as a concept, but it’s no longer a concept. It isquickly becoming a reality.”