November 30, 2016 | by Bob Vlach
The future of one former school building in Versailles has been re-imagined.
The Versailles Elementary School building located at 299 South Main Street is being renovated into an apartment building owned and operated by AU Associates, a Lexington-based company that focuses on adaptive reuse projects such as the revitalization of aging school buildings.
A first-grader at Versailles Elementary during the 1935-36 school year, Betty Dozier came back to her hometown school as a teacher in 1952 – teaching first-graders in the same classroom where she was taught as a first-grader.
“I share that with lots of people,” says Dozier, a teacher at Versailles Elementary from 1952 to 1964.
She began her teaching career in the oldest section of Versailles Elementary (built in 1888 for $8,000 and torn down in 1967), and later moved to a front portion of the school “where we could look down Main Street and see the courthouse clock,” Dozier remembers.
Joe Gormley was a sixth-grader during his only year at Versailles Elementary School. He says, “They were very welcoming at the school.”
The former Woodford County schools superintendent still remembers the names of his principal (Miss George) and homeroom teacher (Miss Williams), who he describes as “just good folks.”
Ernest West – an inductee of the inaugural class of the Woodford County Public Schools Hall of Fame in 2012 – was also a Versailles Elementary sixth-grader, “and already playing varsity football,” remembers Gormley.
Patrick Shryock also has many fond memories of being a first-grader at Versailles Elementary School – years later.
Being in Jean Barrows’s class, meant that he also got to go to the same elementary school as his dad, Nickie Shryock, a longtime Versailles Police officer.
“It was kind of cool going to the same elementary school that he went to. So I’m glad I got to experience that,” says Patrick Shryock. “There are not too many people around that can say they went to Versailles Elementary.” Shryock’s most vivid memories came on Friday nights. Watching basketball games pitting his elementary school against teams from Millville, Mortonsville, Nonesuch, Pisgah and Midway was unforgettable. “It wasn’t anything for that Versailles (Elementary School) gymnasium to be packed out (with people) on basketball nights. That was always a good time. It would be standing room only,” remembers Shryock.
Longtime elementary school teacher Peggy Carter Seal never attended classes at Versailles Elementary, but she’s happy to see that the aging school building is being repurposed as an apartment building. “Any old structure that you can refurbish and use in a new way benefits the community,” says Carter Seal. “It’s a good use of a public facility,” adds Gormley.
The former Woodford County judge-executive says he plans to attend an open house for Versailles School Apartments on Thursday, Dec. 8, at 11:30 a.m. The grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony includes featured speaker Libby Jones, former Kentucky first lady. Building tours will follow. The repurposed elementary school building most recently housed the school district’s community education center, but Gormley says, “I call it Versailles Elementary School all the time.” Says Dozier, “I want to get in and see what each suite looks like. What are they going to call the suites?”
Built for $70,000, Versailles Elementary School opened its doors to students on Sept. 4, 1939.
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