How does “Fort Payne Intermediate School” sound? “Big Wills Intermediate”? “Wills Town Intermediate”? “Little River Intermediate”?
These are just some of the suggestions that local teachers offered Superintendent of Education Jim Cunningham to possibly title the campus under construction to replace Williams Avenue Elementary School. He simply asked that it be called an “intermediate” rather than “elementary” school. The term is used to describe a halfway point, in the middle between two things in time, which is apt when referring to grades in that gray space between childhood and becoming a teenager.
Others on the list considered by Fort Payne Board of Education members at their May 14 meeting included “Mountain Ridge Intermediate”, “Valley Ridge Intermediate”, “Allen Spring Intermediate”, “Big Ridge Intermediate”, “Sequoyah Intermediate” and “Lookout Valley Intermediate”.
The decision on what to call the new school is a big one because citizens will likely speak and write it for decades to come. The campus it is replacing, Williams Avenue Elementary, opened 66 years ago and hosted grades one through six, constructed with major support from the Fort Payne Jaycees.
The board lacked a solid favorite, but they did feel that “Lookout Valley” could too easily be confused with a school by that name on Browns Ferry Road in Chattanooga. “Allen Spring” refers to a pool of water just off Old Valley Head Road near 67th Street NW and the Vulcraft factory. A couple of board members asked whether Little River Canyon is too far from the new campus to be a spot-on reference.
“Sequoyah” refers to the illiterate genius who became the only man in history to conceive and perfect in its entirety an alphabet or syllabary, according to the website https://fortpayne.org/history/. His efforts made reading and writing in Cherokee possible.
Caverns that closed in 2013 and a mobile home community are among the local landmarks already named after him.
“Willstown” or “Will’s Town” was the name of the mission in Fort Payne before Capt. James Rogers, commanding 20 men and two officers, garrisoned at Big Spring and built an Indian stockade which he named in honor of his friend, Capt. Payne, in March 1838, the same year as the Cherokees’ forced exile to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.
Board President Jimmy Durham later noted that the area appears on 1862 maps as Rawlingsville, but that one was not considered.
Before their next meeting on June 25th, Cunningham will give the school board members a tour of the new school, then they will decide on a name for the new campus at that meeting so there is adequate time to construct signage and set up administrative paperwork, etc.
Originally planned for an August 20, 2020 completion date, Cunningham said construction on the $19.8 million 100,566 square foot school should be finished by the contractor Baggette by Christmas. He noted that work has continued despite heavy rains and a pandemic to make progress toward that goal.
Williams Avenue Elementary School (WAES) currently serves almost 500 third and fourth graders. Current plans call for its continued use for educational purposes.
When replacing this outlier next to the county fairgrounds (geographically the center of the city), Fort Payne will have all four of its school campuses in close proximity to one another on the northern end of town. The new campus, whatever it ends up being named, covers 21 acres and will contain 47 classrooms.
Take our most recent poll to give your (purely for fun) opinion of what the new school should be named at the following link: https://times-journal.com/poll_a7b936e8-99e5-11ea-8053-f3f8466b1d1f.html