Kate Griffin Jr. High has, from some reports, been operating in Meridian since 1903. The school has seen generation after generation of the same families pass through its doors, but at the end of this school year, those doors will be closed, and classes will no longer be held there.

The school district has struggled for years with the upkeep of the building, which is in some disrepair, and is closing the school to send students to the new 9th grade building at Meridian High School.

Ninth graders who would have attended K.G. will attend Meridian High next year, and 8th graders who would have attended K.G. will attend middle school at Northwest (which is currently a junior high school but will become a middle school next year), Carver, or Magnolia.

The school board said they are still unsure as to how the building will be used in the future.

Most of the structures that now stand at Kate Griffin were built in the '20's, the '50's, and the '60's. Over its lifetime, the school has housed grades ranging from seven to twelve, and was once a nine through twelve high school.

The school currently houses eighth and ninth grades.

"Since the 1960's," said Howard Hagwood, the school's administrative assistant, "approximately half of the eighth and ninth grade students in Meridian have attended Kate Griffin. Over four hundred students are currently enrolled at the school."

The school is named for its first principal, who left a lasting impression on Meridian's educational community.

Hagwood quoted former school superintendent Dr. H. M. Ivy in a short history of the school, saying, "In Miss Kate Griffin, everyone who comes in contact with her has had an exemplification of what a life of service means. Every boy, every girl, every teacher, every individual who contacted Miss Kate Griffin was to her the most important individual anywhere at any given time."

Donna Jill Johnson went to Kate Griffin in the late 1950's, and wrote briefly on her memories there.

"Going to Kate Griffin in 1957 was a big deal in jumping from elementary school to the BIG Junior High School," she wrote. "The 7th and 8th grade were considered the 'lower division' and the 9th and 10th grade was the 'upper division'. You were NEVER allowed to go into the upper division. Even though the buildings were joined there was a distinctive division. We knew it was taboo."

Johnson wrote that some of her fondest memories were of her home room class with Miss Lillian McNeil.

"During home room," she wrote, "we could talk Miss McNeil into a 'field trip' to the library, which is now our museum of art building on 7th street. Those field trips would then be expanded into going to Brookshire's ice cream parlor... or the Triangle restaurant on the next corner for a Chic-Steak sandwich."

In 1959, Northwest Jr. High was built, and Johnson said she was disappointed to have to change schools, especially because her best friend would remain at K.G.

She wrote, "Where I got to go to the brand new school as a 9th grader, my very best friend, Sharlie, got to go to that pie in the sky, called THE UPPER DIVISION. I was so jealous!"

Johnson said that her mother attended Kate Griffin before her.

Lisa Covington went to K.G. during the 1970's, and said that she, too, followed in her parents footsteps by attending the school. Her mother, father, and brother were all K.G. alum.

What Covington remembers most about going to K.G. in eighth and ninth grades was her feeling of youthful innocence and security.

"It was just an innocent time," she said. "Just the innocence and learning about the big world... Those two grades are when you really learn a lot of your socialization skills."

Another thing she remembers, "That sense of community back then that I don't see so much anymore because the kids now go back and play video games."

Covington said she was active in sports at the school, and vaguely remembers the entire student body being broken up into two competing teams. One team she said, was more athletic, and the other was more academic.

"I don't know if it was intentional or not," she said of the division. "It just seemed that way."

Another of Covington's favorite memories of K.G. is the great teachers she had there. She said her coach, Beth Gilbert, was something of a mentor to her. "She taught us so much about sticking to it," she said.

Her favorite teacher, though, was Mr. Markham, who made science interesting for her even though it wasn't her favorite subject. "He was an absolutely wonderful science teacher," she said. "He was so interesting. He was one of the teachers that would get you absorbed... It just wasn't boring. I always looked forward to his class."

Covington remembers the building as being old even in the '70's.

"I loved the corridors," she said. "They had the really high ceilings. And I just liked the uniqueness of that building. K.G. was more intimate, but it had a lot of neat old stuff. The square, and the wood doors. You're not going to find that anymore."

Covington's father, Jimmy, remembers his years at K.G. as well. He attended the school during the early '50's, when it housed grades seven through ten.

One thing he clearly remembers is the state of the football field at that time. "When we were there they had a drought, and the football field was about like concrete," he said, "The only thing that would grow on it was sand spurs."

Another vivid memory for him - Mr. Pendarvis, a formidable school administrator who roamed the halls carrying a paddle.

"He wasn't really the coach," he said. "He was the enforcer... Everybody was kind of afraid of him, but they loved him."

He said many of the students, especially boys, rode to school on motor scooters, and walked across an old covered bridge to get between school buildings.

With dances in the gym, student-held variety shows in the auditorium, and moments caught between classes for short conversations with other students, Mr. Covington said he remembers his years at K.G. as "just an overall enjoyable time... It was really an interesting time. I really enjoyed it."

With only one year of classes left, the school's new principal Dr. James Swindell said he hopes for the school's final class to leave behind a legacy of teamwork and excellence.

"We want all our students to strive to be the very best," he said. "Everybody working together to have a great year. That's the legacy we want to leave behind."

Today, Kate Griffin will hold its final open house, which is open to anyone but specifically aimed at families of students. Hagwood said he hopes the open house will promote that legacy of teamwork by involving parents along with the students, faculty, and staff.

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