By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – On the last day of school, Grapeland ISD showcased its new elementary facility with a cornerstone dedication and ceremony. While not quite finished, the elementary will be operational by the first bell of the 2019-2020 school year.
The Friday, May 24 program was opened by Walter W. Rogers, Past Grand Master of Masons of Texas.
“I’m proud to be here,” Rogers began. “These fellows standing behind me are Masons. We have assembled today to level the cornerstone on this new structure.”
Following the invocation, Rogers introduced Grapeland Mason Wayland Woolsey who recognized County Judge Jim Lovell, Grapeland Mayor Pro-Tem Velda Parker and Grapeland ISD Superintendent Don Jackson.
Jackson addressed the crowd of students, teachers, Masons, officials, residents of Grapeland and many others and thanked everyone for coming.
Speaking directly to the students, Jackson said, “We wanted to do something special for you. The (GISD) Board (of Trustees) wanted to do something special for you, as well. We hope you enjoy this new school and we hope your children will enjoy this new school as we hope you make Grapeland your home for a long time.”
After thanking the elementary teachers, administrators and staff, Jackson turned the microphone over to the school board members.
Board member Josh Goolsby spoke first and said he was very excited about the new school. Board member Kendra Huff said it was a blessing to the community and Board Secretary Melissa Cobb said the board had prayed over the facility as well as the students. She expressed she was thankful for the opportunity to serve and was excited about the future of the elementary.
Board Vice-President Eddie Childress closed out the trustees remarks and commented, “For many years, we have had the vision on our school board to upgrade and update our school facilities. The high school was our first project several years ago. Since then, our eyes have been on this project for probably the last 10 years.”
“It is not a project we take lightly,” Childress continued. “We wanted to have the right timing and the right opportunity for both our taxpayers and students. We appreciate the support we have had from the community as we move forward in Grapeland on the education of our students. It also shows everyone – as they come through Grapeland – that we are serious about our schools and we are serious about educating our children.”
Once the board members had concluded their remarks, Jackson requested representatives from Goodwin, Lasiter, Strong – the architectural firm behind the new elementary school – to come forward to be recognized.
“We would like to say it has been a privilege to work with Mr. Jackson and the school board on this project. It has been a process we have greatly enjoyed. We hope we have created a space where the students of Grapeland can learn and grow for years to come. We would like to say thank you to the community and to the district for allowing us to be a part of this project,” architect Mark Strong said.
After Strong’s comments, Jackson thanked the board and all the educators in the district before directing his attention to the students.
“Children, this is for you. This is for you to help give you the best education you can possibly get. Your education will determine where you will live, where you work and it will benefit you for the rest of your life. We ask you to come with a great attitude and to take advantage of the opportunity to learn and to grow,” he said.
Jackson also expressed his appreciation to the Masons for conducting the cornerstone ceremony.
Rogers returned to the podium, introduced Elementary Principal Cassie Satterwhite and her to say a few words.
“Good morning. I would like to talk about what is going in our time capsule. We will have a time capsule and if you see these men behind me, they are being very careful not to fall in the hole,” Satterwhite said with a laugh.
She said she would like to remember every student and teacher “… that has been here this year. We will be putting class pictures in our time capsule with the children’s names and the teacher’s name on the back. After that, we have asked the Grapeland Messenger to write about this occasion and we will be getting that newspaper and putting it in. I have also created a moment in time about Grapeland Elementary.”
Satterwhite read off a list of facts concerning the elementary and said these would also be included in the capsule. She added students from third, fourth and fifth grade had been selected to write about what Grapeland Elementary would be like in 25 years. She said their essays would be placed in the capsule and would be read in 25 years when the time capsule was opened.
Following the time capsule discussion, Rogers returned to the podium.
“Education is a very important aspect to the Masonry,” he said. “Mirabeau B. Lamar, who was the first vice-president and second president of the Republic of Texas is the one we call the ‘Father of Education’ in Texas. He was instrumental in forming the public school system and he was a Mason. Masons have been advocates of education since the beginning of time.”
As he continued, the Past Grand Master explained several of the facets of Masonry. Rogers clarified the first Masons were stone masons who wore leather aprons to protect their clothing and the aprons worn by the modern-day Masons were an homage to the originators of the fraternal order.
He also spoke about how the Masonic cornerstone ceremony came to be.
“Until the development of steel frames and structures in the 20th century, most buildings were erected by stacking stone on stone. Each part of the building was marked by ceremony. The foundation stone was the first stone placed underground as the beginning of the building’s foundation. The cornerstone was the first stone placed above ground level. It was usually a massive stone marking the northeast corner of the building,” Rogers said.
At the top of the building, was the capstone. According to Rogers, the ceremonies were under the direction of stone masons who built the buildings although the highest official of the church and state or their representatives were present.
“These ceremonies were occasions for public celebration, each marking the progress of construction. When we level this cornerstone for this school, we will be performing a ceremony that is more than 300 years old,” he said.
Rogers indicated Benjamin Franklin was a Mason and laid the cornerstone of Independence Hall in Philadelphia while George Washington, also a Mason, laid the cornerstone for the US Capital in Washington, D.C.
Texas Freemasons are certainly privileged to be invited to the leveling of this cornerstone for the school building. We are pleased we could be here today and we are pleased you could be here today to witness this ceremony,” he added.
Following a few more minutes, the actual ceremony began with the squaring, leveling and plumbing of the cornerstone. After each task, the mason involved announced, “The craftsmen have done their duty.”
Once the ceremony concluded, the public was invited to tour portions of the new facility.
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.