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March 2021 Hometown Hero: Jackie Huntley and the friends of MES

Published: Mar. 1, 2021 at 11:04 PM EST
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MELROSE, Fla. (WCJB) -History lies in the halls, walls, courts and classrooms at Melrose Elementary.

“On the gym, it says Melrose Elementary school, home of the Mustangs and he says every time he comes here he feels like he’s home,” said Melrose parent, Jackie Huntley.

A Revitalization plan presented in December 2020 by Putnam County schools threatened to close the historical school dating back to 1882— permanently.

RELATED STORY: Parents, community protest potential closure of Melrose Elementary

“If you want to look at what a quality school represents you come to Melrose Elementary,” said Melrose resident Pam Connolly.

For weeks the Melrose Patriots, parents and community protested outside of the school and at the Putnam County School board office in Palatka. The group pled to board members at meetings during public comment and were prepared to do whatever it took to save the school from closure.

“It’s an amazing feeling that we fought and the school board listened to us and we won,” said Melrose Patriot Marcy Lee.

RELATED STORY: Melrose parents bring protest to Putnam County School Board meeting

Board members approved a revised Revitalization plan that will keep Melrose and a number of other schools in the district open in February. It was an option that wasn’t planned overnight but planned entirely by the community.

“Something I told the school board members is that inclusion breeds commitment,” added Huntley. Thanks to the work of Huntley and hundreds of others in the Save Melrose Facebook group, the sentiment of the whole town changed.

“All of these are expressions of gratitude that they addressed to the superintendent, to Mr. Bowling and to the school board members to thank them for re-thinking the plan,” mentioned Huntley. “To thank them to listening to community feedback. To thank them for keeping their school open.”

RELATED STORY: Melrose community saves elementary school from closure

More than 150 students made sure their gratitude didn’t go unnoticed and wrote letters or drew pictures simply to say thanks.

“I can’t tell you the number of times I have said my grandson goes to the sweetest elementary school around and let me tell you why,” said Connolly.

After celebrating a victory at Mossman Hall as a community, the group is raising funds to ensure the students can learn comfortably while the district expands the school population.

“Like the town 100 years ago that built this gym,” said retired MES teacher Laurie Alsobrook. “This group of people has really built the opportunity for this school to stay here.”

RELATED STORY: Melrose patriots host potluck to celebrate community wide victory

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