Our First Days
Grovetown Elementary School is located in the heart of Grovetown, Georgia. Grovetown is a small town with a long and rich history itself. In 1833, the Georgia railroad started from Augusta, continued through Columbia County, and headed toward Atlanta. Several Depots were built along the way and small towns were built around these depots. Grovetown was one such town (Columbia County: Then and Now).
The history of education in Grovetown began around the 1870’s. Charles Lord reported in an article in The Augusta Chronicle (1999) that the beginning place of learning in Grovetown was a small building known as the Hatton Schoolhouse. It was named after a founding settler Dr. Joseph Hatton. Around the turn of the century, there were two other schools, Hall’s School and Jordan’s Academy. Ben Jordan, a native of Richmond County, was an instrumental school official at that time. Black students attended schools that included Jerusalem, Steiner Grove, Walter Branch, and Central.
Around 1912, a wooden, two-story schoolhouse was built next to Grove Baptist Church. The school had no indoor plumbing. The children brought water in buckets into the school from a nearby well (Lord, 1999, 3C).
[Photo courtesy of the Grovetown Museum]Early Leadership
Otis and Johnnie Johns came to Grovetown in 1928 to be teachers at Grovetown Elementary. The school had fifty students and three teachers (Kelley, no date). Mr. Johns was instrumental in getting a new school built. Four acres of land were donated by the heirs of the late Hatton and the new school was built in 1938 using prison labor. The building was brick and included an auditorium (Lord, 1999, 3C). The building wasn’t quite ready for the start of the 1938-1939 school year, so the students met at the home of Mrs. Mat James until the new school was ready (Grovetown School, 1938).
[Photo courtesy of the Grovetown Museum.]
First School Lunchroom in Columbia County
The first school lunchroom in Columbia County was begun in 1933 at Grovetown Elementary. At first, the lunchroom workers had to go to markets on Saturdays to beg for soup bones in order to make the lunches. For many years, Otis Johns supervised the lunchroom. He made the menus, ordered the groceries, paid the bills, and made monthly lunchroom reports. Since that time, every child has been able to eat lunch in the county. In 1942, Camp Gordon was established. A wooden barracks was added to the rear of the school to provide more lunchroom space (Lord, 1999, 3C).
In 1949, Grovetown Elementary had four classrooms. The staff consisted of four teachers, two lunchroom workers, and one custodian. There were one hundred and thirty eight students. By 1956, Grovetown Elementary had seven classrooms. The staff consisted of seven teachers, three lunchroom workers, and one custodian. There were two hundred and sixty eight students (A History of Columbia County).
Otis Johns retired as principal in 1961. May 20 was proclaimed Otis Johns Day by Mayor W.R. Cox. Friends and relatives came to the school for a program and reception honoring Johns (“Grovetown sets tribute,” 1961).
Columbia County Superintendent John Pierce Blanchard outlined a project to add at least four classrooms, possibly six, to the Grovetown School in 1962 (“Federal funds,” 1962).
In 1969, there were now thirty-two classrooms. The staff included twenty-four teachers, six lunchroom workers, three custodians, and one clerical worker. Eight hundred and eight students now attended the school (A History of Columbia County).New Addition Built
To accommodate a growing student body as a result of Fort Gordon, a new addition was built next to the school in 1970 which held fifth, sixth, and seventh grades. It was named the Johns Building in honor of Otis and Johnnie Johns.
After the 1988-1990 school year, the sixth grade class was transferred to Harlem Middle School due to overcrowding (“Columbia board,” 1989).
In December 1990, construction was begun on 21 new classrooms, a 5,000 square foot physical education building, a 1,000 square foot music lab, and a 1,000 square foot art lab (Turner, 1990). This addition unified the campus which was split at that time.
During the 1999-2000 school year, five hundred and twenty seven students were enrolled. A classroom addition was added and ready for the 2000-2001 school year.
Grovetown Elementary was thriving in the 2005-2006 school year. There were 50 teachers, 24 para-pros, 7 lunchroom workers, and 5 custodians. Seven hundred thirty three students were enrolled in grades pre-k through fifth. Robert Boyd was the principal and Janis Allen was the assistant principal. The city of Grovetown is experiencing phenomenal growth, so it is expected that Grovetown Elementary will continue to grow for years to come.
Grovetown Elementary Today
In December of 2015, construction began on a new Grovetown Elementary. That building opened in August 2017 under the leadership of Stephanie Reese as principal and Karin Patterson as the assistant principal. The 111,328 square foot, two-story building contains 55 classrooms and cost about $19.5 million (Lennon, 2017). It opened with approximately 850 students, 63 teachers, and 24 support staff members.
Otis and Johnnie Johns
Otis and Johnnie Johns were an instrumental part of education in Grovetown. Their legacy lives on with the Johns Citizenship award. This award is given each year to two middle school bound students. The award recognizes citizenship and academic achievement. It was established in 1966 (Pavey, 1997).
Grovetown in the News
Grovetown Elementary has been featured in the newspaper a number of times over the years. The following information was obtained form www.augustaarchives.com.
- On Thursday, April 27, 1916, Mr. B. P. Jordan the principal of Grovetown School was attacked by Emmett and Broadus Broadwater. The boys were arrested and later convicted. They were fined one hundred dollars each and sentenced to six months in jail. The jail sentence was suspended pending “good behavior.”
- The school was closed on Monday, March 1 and Tuesday, March 2, 1937 due to the continued illness of the entire faculty as well as about fifty percent of the students. They had the flu.
- In 1953, a school lunch cost 20 cents.
- The City Court Judge Gordon W. Chambers was the commencement speaker at the graduation on May 23, 1953.
- John Eckenroth, principal, was named Columbia County Youth Services Advisory Board Citizen of the Year in 1980.
- In 1987, Ellen Lewis, a fifth and sixth grade social studies teacher at Grovetown Elementary was named Columbia County Teacher of the Year. She was also one of four finalists for Georgia Teacher of the Year.
- ‘Grovetown Project Pride’ was featured on September 21, 1988. The program was designed to improve self image and productivity among students, faculty, and staff.
- Cherie Roberts, a kindergarten teacher at Grovetown Elementary, and Karen Boyd, a music teacher at Stevens Creek Elementary, combined their talents to create an educational program titled Maps in Motion which they presented to the state conference of the Georgia Council for the Social Sciences (1993).
- The Jumping Jaguars team was started during the 1996-1997 school year by Rae Izzo and Alex Heider. The Jumping Jaguars perform tricks with jump ropes.
- In 2000, Grovetown was featured for using laptop computers in the classroom. The school even had laptops that could be checked out by students for use at home.
- In November 2005, the PTO held a barbeque dinner to raise money for the school. The cost was $6 a plate. The school held a barbeque in August 1930. The cost was 50¢ a plate.
A history of columbia county. (1990). Special collections room: Augusta State University Library. Columbia board oks nominations of 2 principals. (1989, February 15). The Augusta Chronicle, p. 2C. Columbia County Then and Now. Special Collections Room: Augusta State University. Federal funds approved for Columbia school work. (1962, February 10). The Augusta Chronicle, p. 8 Grovetown school. (1938, August 26). The Augusta Chronicle, p. 7. Grovetown sets tribute to principal. (1961, May 20). The Augusta Chronicle, p. 3 Kelley, J. (no date). Our heritage: Personalities. Thomson, GA: Luckey Printing Co. Lord, C. (1999, August 10). Early educators left legacy. The Augusta Chronicle, p. 3C. Pavey, R. (1997, October 1). Special educators still help students by annual award. Columbia County Neighbors, p. 12 Turner, F. (1990, December 12). Grovetown school begins expansion. Columbia County Chronicle, pp. 1, 8.
Many thanks to Allison Dixon, 2nd grade teacher, for compiling this history.