The History of Atkinson Elementary School

Construction of Atkinson Elementary School began in 1981 and took two years to complete. The school was designed by Six Associates, Inc. of Ashville and built by LP Cox Company of Sanford. The assistant superintendent of Henderson County Schools, William Barnwell, oversaw construction of the building. The building cost $2.75 million and was funded by a $5.3 million bond issue that was passed by voters in 1980. What remained from the $5.3 million dollar bond was used on building additions to other elementary schools in the district.

The school is named in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Atkinson who generously donated this site to the children of Henderson County. Margaret Pardee (Pardee Hospital) donated the land adjacent to Atkinson. The uniqueness of Atkinson is found in the setting and construction of the school. Mr. Atkinson wanted the natural surroundings to remain as undisturbed as possible and worked closely with the building architects to ensure that this be made possible. The school building runs alongside a small creek. Atkinson’s first principal was Ted Reed who came over from Valley Hill School. Valley Hill School is only two miles from Atkinson. It is boarded up and not presently in use. Much of the playground at Valley Hill was taken down and is still being used by children at Atkinson.

Atkinson has always been a unique school beginning with its’ construction. The campus is built on 20 acres. Windows line the top of the building with several skylights. The building consists of two long hallways that have 17 classrooms, 6 half classrooms, cafeteria, kitchen, library, conference room, and administrative offices. The hallways surround 3 atriums that are lined with windows.

It opened in the fall of 1983 and initially served kindergarten through sixth grade. 400 students transferred from Valley Hill along with many of the teachers and principal Ted Reed. The dedication ceremony was held on September 12, 1983 in the gym and was attended by State School Superintendent Dr. Craig Phillips. He spoke several minutes including comments such as, “What a wonderful place for learning we are dedicating today, look on it with pride.” Also stating “Legislators in Raleigh need to find ways to expand public education immeasurably until every youngster has available a facility like this!”

*This information was gathered from an “Environmental Scan” compiled by Mark Buzzell 2009.