HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Homecoming spirit is extra high for students at Butler High School -- and visiting alumni -- because they know it could be their last.
A cloud hovers over the occasion as Huntsville City Schools has ongoing mediation regarding the district's plans that include the closure of the school.
"They're going to close us," said Butler librarian Jennifer Prince. "We don't know when, but we know they are going to close us."
That questionable future brought Rebels of years past back to their alma mater.
Vera Vergara-Bullard graduated from butler in 1986 and volunteered hours of her time to organize efforts for fellow alumni to come back for what could be a final homecoming.
"With talk of Butler shutting down and not knowing if Butler will have a team next year, I thought, if this is final year, let's all go do it and support our school while we still can," said Vergara-Bullard. She fears the current student body might be feeling the effects of years of declining student population. "These kids need to feel supported and see what the true Butler spirit is"
"People think Butler is just a building, but it's not a building, it's the memories you make inside that make it strong," said 2010 graduate Umbreous Hurt. "When I have my ten-year reunion, if the school's not here, what do we have to reflect on besides memory?"
An Uncertain Future
Huntsville City Schools have been in confidential mediation since summertime. But their longtime plan included closing Butler and moving them to the new Jemison High -- set to open in 2016.
"You have a large facility only being used in a small capacity based on student population and you have to make a large number of improvements to it," explained Huntsville City Schools spokesman Keith Ward.
There is no clear end in sight for the district's mediation, and until then, no answers about Butler will arise.
"Only those directly involved with the mediation process are aware of what's going on."
The uncertainty has Rebels counting down what could be the final moments at Butler, though they are keeping the week's focus on Butler pride.
"We're not thinking of 'there could be an end to Butler one day,'" said Prince. We're thinking 'this is where we are right now. Let's enjoy it and celebrate and make the most of it."
A Deep History
Women from graduating classes in the 1970s and 1980s took to the stands and chanted:
'I'm a Rebel born, I'm a Rebel bred. And when I die, I'll be a Rebel dead!'
Not knowing the future is on the minds of the homecoming court as they get ready for their pep rally.
"It's frustrating because my mom went here, my brother went here," said senior Keasia Blackburn. Donning a tiara, Blackburn is hoping to be crowned Homecoming Queen, because she has Butler royalty in her family. "My brother was actually the first king of Butler High School."
People from around the country have traveled to be part of this year's homecoming, whether their connection with Butler was in the classroom or on the field.
"My dad is ninety, he was the head football coach from '66 to '79," said Beth Bulman, a proud graduate of the class of 1976. Her arm in a sling, she and her parents are attending the game to show support for the school and its current players.
"You can close Butler, but you can't kill Butler spirit," said Vergara-Bullard. "You can never take that from us."