Clayton County preparing to open school named for Michelle Obama

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday for the new Michelle Obama STEM Elementary Academy in Clayton County. (Christine Tannous / christine.tannous@ajc.com)

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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A ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for 5 p.m. Wednesday for the new Michelle Obama STEM Elementary Academy in Clayton County. (Christine Tannous / christine.tannous@ajc.com)

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A Clayton County school named for former first lady Michelle Obama is just days away from opening its doors to students.

School resumes for the south metro district on Aug. 2, but Clayton leaders will get a preview of the new Michelle Obama STEM Academy in Hampton during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

“Everything is ready,” Clayton Schools SPLOST director Ronick Joseph told the district’s board of education on Monday.

Clayton Schools leaders chose Obama last year as the building’s namesake because of her family’s ties to the area. Melvinia Shields, Obama’s great-great-great-grandmother, was enslaved before the Civil War on a family farm in Rex, a tiny hamlet in Clayton County.

According to Gene Hatfield, a retired history professor at Clayton State University, Melvinia came to Rex from South Carolina when she was 6. Melvinia labored at a time when life was hard and the work unremitting, Hatfield told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2018.

The Clayton County school board considered both Obama and former U.S. Congressman John Lewis, who had died three months prior to the discussion, for the naming honor. The board voted 7-2 in favor of Obama.

“Both of them are great individuals,” board chairwoman Jessie Goree said before the vote was called. “All of us are willing to go one way or the other.”

The district on Tuesday cancelled a ribbon-cutting they planned this week for a second school, Jonesboro High School. That event, set for Friday, will be rescheduled to an as-yet-determined date.

Joseph said recent heavy rains slowed progress on getting Jonesboro finished on time for the ceremony.

“The interior work will be complete by Wednesday,” Joseph told the board. “However, the rain of last week has impacted us greatly on the exterior.”

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