Jemison, McNair Groundbreaking Draws Former Astronaut, Protesters

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Construction is officially underway on the new Jemison High School and McNair Junior High School.  Crews broke ground in a ceremony on Friday morning.

Former astronaut Mae Jemison delivered an inspirational message, even as protestors across the street yelled messages of frustration.

Jemison, a Decatur native, is the first female African American to go to space.

“I am so proud to be here with this commitment that Huntsville is making,” said Jemison.  “This commitment to say our kids are worth putting our funding behind, putting our energy behind, putting our hopes and dreams behind them.”

Jemison spoke directly to the students at the ceremony, challenging them to get all they could out of this new school.  It’s expected to be complete by August 2016, and so is McNair Junion High.

“I’m going to tell the students standing here… I expect you to do good things,” Jemison said.

Jemison also reminisced about Ronald McNair, the namesake of the new junior high school, who she said talked with her before she joined the astronaut program.
McNair died in the 1986 Challenger accident.

“He was a very very well-rounded person. He was exceptional not just mentally, but also in the amount that he would give to people and the time and the energy,” she said.

Meanwhile, across the street, some north Huntsville residents voiced complaints about the name of the school, its location, the district’s rezoning plan, and the lack of attention, they say, north Huntsville has gotten from city leaders.

“I’m here to be speaking up for my community. It’s not about a name, it’s about equality,” said Michelle Watkins.

District officials plan to close Johnson and Butler High Schools and have those students attend the new $65 million high school.


  • WRS

    Funny how both schools are named after blacks and the de-segregation lawsuit was suppose to stop this. Blacks remain in North Huntsville and whites in South Huntsville. This was the reason for busing in the 60’s. These new schools will be 95% black. We sure have come a long way.

  • concernedmom

    What a way to use the taxpayer’s money…Let close down schools already built and build another school, instead of investing in teachers, supplies, buses, learning programs, etc… Yeah, Alabama moving on up in the education arena! More motivation to move my kids to better schools!

    • Tim

      By building new schools and changing their names they will no longer be on the Failing School List so the school leaders can say they improved their scores. For at least a few years.

  • Shonda

    It’s funny how both schools are named after black people. REALLY! Ok. Grissom High School (80.4 % white) is named after an astronaut that happens to be white. Ed White Middle School (89.4 % black) is named after an astronaut that happens to be white. What difference does it make about the name. Huntsville does need to replace some of these old schools. These schools may look decent on the outside but horrible on the inside. My only complaint is that they make a big fuss about needing space for AAA b/c they have a large waiting list. How long has the old Stone Middle School been vacant. Why has that not been an option! Just thinking out loud.

    • Ron

      I think the point was the black majority is kept on the north side while the whites are in the south. Black schools named after blacks, white schools after whites. Seems like the 60’s.

  • KB

    Regardless of the races of whom these schools are named, I am a military brat and have NEVER seen so many schools in one city! I’ve lived in much larger military cities and have seen 3-4 TOPS!! I realize that Huntsville is growing but jeez!!!

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