Kimmons Turns 50

1966 Kimmons cheerleaders

50 years ago, Kimmons Junior High School was like a newborn baby, small and delicate.

“The original building only had the 200, 400, and 600 wings,” Mrs. King, registrar, said. “The 300 and 500 wings were added later and were labeled A-E when I came in 1993.”

The science labs, Band classroom, front-office space, and outside awning were all added in 2005. Before that, the double doors closest to the 200 wing marked the entrance to Kimmons. Band practiced in the Orchestra room, the main offices were located in Mrs. Post’s and Mrs. Remy’s current classrooms, and special education teachers did not have any office space.

The student population has also grown from 500 in the early ’90s to nearly 900 in 2014. One explanation for the increase is housing expansion on the northside of Fort Smith.

“We are so big now that we are busting at the seams,” Dr. Gray, English department chair, said. Having previously been at Northside High School, Dr. Gray has taught here since 2000.

Another drastic change is the climate of the school, an unwanted-legacy that Kimmons still fights to change in the public’s view.

“When I first came here in 2000, gang activity was an issue,” Mr. Morris, 8th grade social studies teacher, said. “Students had gang-related tattoos and drew gang insignia on their notebooks. Fights between Hispanic gangs like the Florencia (FX13) and Asian gangs broke out in the hallways. We teachers took turns in the last week of school to do extra duty outside to keep Northside gang members from cruising our parking lots to recruit members and cause trouble.”

By 2005, the climate had changed for the better.

“Gang fights tapered off,” Mr. Morris said. “I never felt unsafe at Kimmons, and now, you just don’t really hear much about gangs. We have a safe environment and have moved in a positive direction.”

Ms. Core, who has taught here since 1995, attended Kimmons herself in 1966. At the time, the school had only been open for one year.

“My favorite teacher was Mrs. Joy Werner who taught 9th grade English,” Ms. Core said. “I remember when we read Les Miserables and Mrs. Werner explained that Jean Valjean should not have been put in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving sister. I just could not understand that there is an exception to every rule. After all, I was raised by my father the lawyer! In my home there was right and wrong and NO inbetween. Mrs. Werner, who was from New York, taught me that there is an exception to every rule! And quite often in my life, I’ve been the exception to the rule. Mrs. Werner marked me for life. There was nothing I couldn’t do, even if there was a rule against it. I could be the exception — and often I have been!”

Mr. Hinkle, coach and Geometry teacher, attended Kimmons from 1988-1991.

“My favorite teacher was Coach McCaskill,” Mr. Hinkle said. “Although he was very disciplined, we knew he cared about us. We didn’t understand why he was so hard on us first, but he showed us that discipline is a great factor in being success.”

Other than teachers who also attended KJH, some students have parents who are former Raiders.

“The benefit is that more of the teachers know me because my dad went to school here,” Taylor Gilyard, 9th, said.

To some second-generation Raiders, the 50th Anniversary holds a cherished space in their hearts.

“I feel special because I get to be here on such a glorious occasion,” Anisha Hatton, whose mother attended KJH, said.

Ms. Core, who teaches Careers, shared what has kept her at Kimmons for two decades.

“I don’t stay at jobs that don’t interest and challenge me,” Ms. Core said. “That’s what has kept me here for 20 years! I love the kids and the staff. I love the subject I teach. It’s a good organization to work for.”