Staff photo by Bobby J. Smith | Kossuth Elementary School second-graders take a seat in the newly restored auditorium.
KOSSUTH — The Kossuth community is celebrating a new lease on life for the historic 1936 elementary school auditorium.
The building’s future looked anything but rosy back in 2010 when a negative report from engineers caused school officials to chain the doors. But following a reappraisal of the situation in January of this year, Kossuth Elementary School parents and members of the community banded together to save the campus landmark.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Monday to celebrate completion of the first phase of restorations and to give the public a chance to see the work completed to date.
“There is so much pride here,” said Kossuth Elementary Principal Charlotte Essary. “I never dreamed we would be able to do it this soon. This community really comes together.”
The drive to save the auditorium began in March. The following months would see approximately $22,000 raised for the project.
“We did it through a fish fry and a talent show. We sold T-shirts,” said fundraising organizer Anthia Follin-King. “We had some very dedicated Aggies people who contributed.”
The first phase of restorations included adding metal plates to a number of support beams which engineers said were bowing in the 2010 report, painting the auditorium, some work on the down-stage lighting area, and refinishing the hardwood floors — which date from the building’s inception as a 1936 Works Project Administration (WPA) project.
Follin-King pointed out that the survival of the 80-year-old hardwood floors is due to the care taken with upkeep in decades past. She described how school officials regularly treated the floors during her time at Kossuth Elementary.
“Every summer or Christmas while the students were out the school officials would come in and put burnt oil on the floors. They poured it on the floors by the gallon,” she remembered. “It was always slick when we came back to school — we’d slide on the floor! That’s why it’s in as good shape as it is.”
Work on the floors during the recent restoration was handled by Gerald Parks Hardwood. Workers cleaned, sanded and vacuumed the floors, applied 30 coats of spirits and airbrushed the floors with polyurethane.
Follin-King said everyone is proud of the newly-finished auditorium.
“It is absolutely beautiful,” she said.
Essary credited the swift progress on the project to the amazing fundraising efforts and hard work of members of the community.
“Alcorn County is full of people who care. We are so blessed to have people in the area who the school means so much to,” said the KES principal. “You can’t convince me we don’t have the best students, the best teachers and the best parents here.”
With work complete on phase one, the focus now moves to phase two, which will include replacing the wood and restoring the original hardware on the auditorium’s approximately 500 seats.
Fundraisers for the next phase are scheduled for the coming months. They include a fish fry on Oct. 15 and a chitlin cookout on Feb. 2, both at the Christian Life Center at Kossuth Methodist Church.