Huntington School set to close

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 1, 2010

FERRIDAY — Huntington School announced that it was closing Wednesday, a decision that left many in the school system heartbroken.

Graduation for the class of 2010 is going to be bittersweet for Abi Brown, 17, who will be part of the last group to walk down the aisles in green robes.

“I’m glad to be graduating, but my whole family went here,” she said. “I always wanted something to come back to, so I could say, ‘I became a doctor.’

“I can’t now.”

Huntington teacher Leine McNeely typically gets sad at the end of the school year, but this year is different, she said.

“They are like my children — I love each and every one of them,” McNeely said, with tears welling up in her eyes. “It makes me sad because I’ll never see them gathered in a group again.”

Huntington opened its doors in Ferriday in 1970 and quickly grew to a school of approximately 600. By 1976, the enrollment was at approximately 700 and remained there for a while. Over the last few years, the enrollment has been drastically dropping, Assistant Principal Emily Guida said.

“We were at 180 for a couple of years,” Guida said. “Now, we are down to 115 students.”

Guida said the school needed 150 students to continue as a viable business, but there were not enough families able to commit to a 2010-2011 school year.

Sophomore Bradley Kyle, 17, said when he graduates from Monterey High School, he would find a way to wear some green.

“I’ve got to represent Huntington,” he said. “I like this school — it just isn’t going to be the same somewhere else.

“I’m really going to miss the atmosphere here — everybody is a friend.”

Sophomore Taylor Greene, 15, transferred to Huntington a year ago because her friends were there.

“Most of them are now going to Trinity (Episcopal School), and others are going with me to Monterey,” she said. “This is really sad.

“I will miss all of them.”

Guida started as a teacher at Huntington in 1976 and said the school was a big part of her life.

“My uncle was one of the founders, and I have had five children who graduated from Huntington,” she said. “This breaks my heart.

“It is hard to imagine that it won’t be here.”

Tears started to fall down her cheek when she thought about the students who have been at Huntington since preschool.

“They are all disappointed that they will not get to graduate from here,” she said. “I told them to just remember, whatever graduation aisle you walk down, you will be taking a little piece of Huntington with you.”

Huntington’s closure may also impact the Ferriday economy, some fear.

“If you are going to Natchez to take a child to school, you will probably end up shopping in those stores,” she said. “I would hope there would not be an economic impact, but business owners are worried they could feel it.”

Guida said Huntington has been a wonderful place to work and she met many wonderful people, including graduates who have come back successful. She now hopes the school has done a good job preparing them for other schools.

“I hope the children will be successful wherever they will go,” Guida said.

Huntington had 24 employees at the beginning of the year, but consolidated three classes and let three teachers go at midterm.