Grays Chapel set for 100 years of school memories

Grays Chapel Elementary School students gather for a photo last week in advance of the 100-year celebration at the school. (Photo courtesy of Dan Routh)


FRANKLINVILLE – The 100-year celebration for Grays Chapel Elementary School this weekend means countless families will rekindle their connections and memories.

That’s the whole idea involving this event.

“To me, it’s the community involvement in the school that makes it so special,” said April Wood, a kindergarten teacher. “It’s a close-knit community that supports the school. I think that’s the best part about it.”

Wood and fellow kindergarten teacher Jennifer Macfayden have been leading the organization of the weekend celebration.

“We’ve heard from people who have four generations of family who are going to be coming back,” Wood said.

The celebration is set for 3-7:30 p.m. Saturday. Activities include school tours (a walk through memory lane), memorabilia set-ups, a silent auction, a live auction and a meal. The event is open to the public, though geared to anyone who previously attended or worked at the school.

For Wood and her family, it’s about generations of attendance at the school.

Wood came through Grays Chapel from third through eighth grade on the way to becoming a 1988 graduate at Eastern Randolph. She later worked in Asheboro City Schools, but she has been on the teaching staff at the Grays Chapel for 19 years.

Her parents, Judy Flinchum and the late Jimmy Flinchum, attended the school. So it was only fitting that Woods’ three children also attended the school.

“I really wanted them to come here to Grays Chapel,” she said. “I love this place.”

Macfayden also went through Grays Chapel. She’s a 2005 Eastern Randolph graduate.

The school, located on N.C. 22, is a feeder for Northeastern Randolph Middle School and Providence Grove High School. Before Providence Grove opened, the school was a stop for students who eventually would attend Eastern Randolph.

For years, the school was home to students through 11th grade. The last graduating class at the high school level was in 1968, with about 30 graduates.

A fire destroyed a portion of the school building in May 1973. A new structure was constructed by the following year.

Louis Brady, a Franklinville man, made a painting of the old school – based on a photograph – 50 years ago. This year, he has a new painting of the school.

“I love the fact we have the same artist 50 years later,” Wood said.

More than 400 presale tickets have been issued – to expected attendees as far away as Colorado – for a barbeque associated with the celebration, so organizers are anticipating at least 500 people will be present throughout the day.

“Our expectations are real high,” Wood said. “People do love the school.”

Last week, current students of the school gathered on the grounds and aligned in a “1-0-0” formation for a drone photograph by Dan Routh, whose late wife, Dedra Routh, was a third-grade teacher at Grays Chapel. His father, the late Sylvan Routh, was a former principal at the school.

“I have so many connections to that school,” said Dan Routh, a semi-retired commercial photographer.

Through the years, there have been changes, but much that’s associated with the school remains the same.

“Everybody was my cousins and everybody knows everybody, and I don’t think that’s the case anymore,” said Routh, 70. “But it’s still a community school. There are several families that have been here (in this area) since the 1700s.”

He can remember when parts of the school were built, dating back to the late 1950s and 1960s. The main gym remained standing after the fire, used temporarily for makeshift classrooms.

Otis Thomas of Franklinville was a longtime principal prior to Sylvan Routh’s tenure. The elder Routh was a teacher at the school for 18 years, while also operating a dairy farm. Dan Routh’s mother, Marjorie Routh, and his brother and sisters also went through their school days at Grays Chapel.

“It has been a community school,” Dan Routh said. “For years, a lot of teachers were from the community.”

Drew and Michelle DuVall, who are owners of Blue Ridge Tool Inc., have donated ornaments that will be sold at this weekend’s celebration. They had children attend the school.

A history book also will be for sale. Through the years, school has served various levels, including the middle school grades.

Many proceeds from the weekend will go toward purchasing playground equipment.

By Bob Sutton