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New school building honors past and future of Hot Springs

Langston Elementary School is getting a brand new state-of-the-art facility, but not without remembering where it all began in 1913.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — The "Cool About School" series is taking a trip to the city wedged within the Ouachita Mountains. 

The Hot Springs School District is building a brand new state-of-the-art facility for Langston Magnet School, but this construction doesn't just mean new classrooms and hallways. 

This new school building will connect the future to the past by taking us back in time to a turning point in our country's history. 

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Stephanie Nehus, Hot Springs School District Superintendent, said we must flip back a few pages in Garland County's history book to the year 1913. The year Langston High School was established as the first school for African Americans in Hot Springs. 

"It has a rich history in our community," Nehus said. 

It was considered home to the blue and gold bulldogs and named in honor of John Mercer Langston. He was an African American man who was an abolitionist, activist, attorney, diplomat, and educator. 

Nehus said the school's presence adding something special to Hot Springs. 

"The school was known for drama, music, athletics, the strong legacy of learning," she said. 

Now, fast forward in time to 1954 - when the landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education changed our country. The Supreme Court ruling unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. 

"It really made a big impact on where we are today and where we are headed, and we will never lose sight of that," Nehus said. 

She said 1968 is when it all began to change for the Langstonians. 

"That was the last official graduating class of Langston High School and Hot Springs School District integrated in 1969," Nehus said. 

Just like that, the blue and gold bulldogs transformed into the black and gold mighty trojans and Langston High School became Langston Elementary School. 

She said a millage election back in 2016 gave the school district a green light to build a brand new 12-million dollar home for Langston students, but not without remembering where it all began. 

"We want our students to know, history can repeat itself if we aren't knowledgeable about that," Nehus said. 

The original Langston high school building isn't here any longer, but its legacy still lives on. A space right in front of the school will be solely dedicated as a Langston memorial to commemorate the history and cultural growth of Hot Springs.

She said this was vital to do to connect the past to the future.

"That we embrace the history, but yet, we also wanted to provide that state-of-the-art modern facility for our students of today," Nehus said. 

Construction for the new school building began at the beginning of June. The new hallways, walls, and classrooms aren't the only things being remodeled though.

Adriane Barnes, Hot Springs School District PR Coordinator, said the name and there is also receiving a makeover and turning into Langston Elementary Leadership Academy. 

"The magnet focus will be on civil responsibility. Leadership in general, so speaking skills, volunteerism, outreach within in the community in terms of churches, our various civic groups," she said. 

Barnes said they used the school's physical location to springboard what will be going on within the freshly painted walls. 

"This entire community is very dedicated to collaborative work and collaborative effort to make Hot Springs continue to thrive and grow, so this school is located in the middle of that and all of our electives in the new magnet theme will focus on that," she said. 

Barnes said there will be electives like debate, student council, beta club and many more. 

It focuses on leadership because it flips the page back to where Langston all began.

"All of our kids need mirrors and windows. They need to be able to see people that look just like them, but they also need to be inspired by people that maybe look different from them because both of those examples show them that the opportunities are endless," she said. 

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The new school also has expanded room for therapy and special education services. As well as state of the art technology throughout the building. 

Nehus said as the school year progresses, they want to invite Langstonians back to inspire the future generation. 

On August 15th once the boxes are gone, the dirt is removed and the doors open up for the start of the school year, a huge celebration of past and future will take place within the Ouachita Mountains.

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