By: Jacqueline Miles
Friday and Saturday marked a new beginning for the S L Jones Academy as they held an open house for parents and friends celebrating the purchase of their building. “This is the first time we’ve had an open house and it’s been very successful,” said Millicent Demps, a principle of the school.
“We’ve now expanded our school to 3year olds (that are potty trained) to the 12th grade.” She said. Although the school provides bus service for the students, they do not for the 3year olds. “The only way we provide that service is that there is an older sibling that is riding the bus. Otherwise, a parent must bring the child to school.”
The school originally began at St. Pilgrim’s Church with four classes. “The first year we went up to the third grade. The second year we went up to the fifth grade. Because the building was not in compliance, they began looking for a new building. “The third year, with the help of Dr. Johnson and Dr. Durant, we moved the school to the old Baptist Center located at 2400 West Strong Street.” The school continued until 2004 when hurricane Ivan damaged the building causing them once again to seek shelter elsewhere for the school. 2010 New Warrington Road then became the home of S L Jones Academy, but not without a price. “When we got into the building, we had to retrofit the building to accommodate our classes. It had been used as a drug and rehab center so there were some class room there. Yet we had to put in a $30,000 sprinkler system because we were bursting at the seams with children. We had then approximately 200 students,” said Mrs. Demps.
By this time, the school had gained a reputation and more students were applying but had to be turned down. “I told God I was not going back to that building. So, one day we received an anonymous tip that this school was about to be closed up on the market. As we walked through the building, we realized that this was the building God intended,” said Mrs. Demps. “This was a true Jericho experience for us. “God spoke to pastor and instructed him to get the crew and march around the building seven times and then shout. “She stated.
We applied for a loan and received 80% of what we asked. When we went to talk to the superintendent of schools about the building, they were asking a high price and we didn’t have the money. So, we had to take a very expensive lease for three years. Now, we’ve purchased our building and give God the Glory.
Currently, the school had 350 students enrolled for this school year. “We are going to have our first football team next year,” said Pastor Demps. “And, Riddle has sponsored $50,000.00 for the uniforms and equipment,” he said. “Of course we will still have our basketball team. Our first priority is to build a gym for the basketball team. They have brought home a lot of state championships. Our boys used to practice on the streets with a hoop. We want them to have a gym to practice in now.” said Mrs. Demps.
Naturally, we have coaches for the newly formed football team,” said Pastor Demps.” Tre Bonner is our Athletic Director and Dean Demps and Dean John will be coaching the team. We are looking forward to having our guys hit the grid next year to further expand the learning experience for our students.”