During the 70s, Snellville became the fastest growing city in the county. As the population grew, local hallmark W.C. Britt Elementary (Britt) adapted to meet the demands of its changing community. But the goal for each student remains the same.
Home to the “Comets”, Britt is a K-5 institution that aims to be a place where students can acquire the knowledge, skills, and behavior to be successful as they continue their education.
When it opened in August 1969, W.C. Britt was the only elementary school in Snellville’s city limits. A one-story-brick building off Skyland Drive SW, Britt was built to replace Snellville Elementary, a consolidated school which included grades 1-8.
With the school’s construction came a more specified education system to meet the city’s growing population.
Growing up in Snellville — a town where “Everybody is Somebody,” these young minds have been challenged to think critically and define the world for themselves. Principal Melissa Madsen believes cultivating these skills will help students “become upstanding citizens.”
Principal Madsen explained, “Our kids are proud to be going to school and of themselves for how they learned to hold academic conversations with each other. We recently had a class debating the Articles of Confederation. We’ve taught them the language to explicitly have really good conversations and to teach themselves how to think.”
With iPads, laptops and cell phones in every classroom, students have a wealth of information at their fingertips, but literacy and critical thinking are skills that require practice.
“Today technology is a huge part of learning. Classes have iPads or computers and almost everyone has a little computer on them at all times through their phone. But we still teach reading with actual books, “Madsen said explaining the school’s literacy program.
“Reading is a big part of what we do. We have book clubs where we encourage kids to choose their own book. That choice is the ultimate differentiation,” Madsen said.
In 2014, Britt Elementary received the International Reading Association’s Exemplary Reading Award. Madsen was in office as the Assistant Principal at the time and joined an assembly in Macon to accept the award on March 8, 2014.
During her tenure, Madsen has seen the school go through many changes, but its student-engagement policy hasn’t budged.
“Love them first, make them feel important, then teach them,” wrote Beverly Todd-Lee, a principal who was instrumental in changing the school’s mascot from the Bobcats to the Comets.
According to literature on the school’s history, Todd-Lee wanted to “create more of a sense of community with the high school” and consequently took a schoolwide vote about changing the mascot. Due to the results, the school’s colors changed to blue and silver, and during Todd-Lee’s tenure they also adopted a new motto: “Respect yourself and others.”
As Britt’s 50th anniversary draws near, one alum, Gayle Middlebrook, finds herself back in the hallways of the school she attended in 1969.
A student in Britt Elementary’s pilot class and now an employee at the school, Middlebrook said, “It’s a feeling of nostalgia to know I was in this school right after integration when we were starting something new as a community. And now I’ve come full circle. It feels great to be here, just a total blessing.”
Middlebrook is also a part of the Golden Anniversary Committee which has planned a Celebration to commemorate 50 years of Comet pride. The event took place on May 4, 2019, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the school. It included a Tour and Reception before the Program began at 3:00 p.m.
And the Golden Anniversary Committee has a few surprises up their sleeve. One of those includes the reveal of a Time Capsule created in 1994 when the school completed its 25th anniversary.
The Time Capsule’s contents will be displayed before the entire school during a grand reveal that will be played on the screens in every classroom. Afterward, each class will provide additional items, including spirit wear, toys, and class projects stored on flash drives in the capsule which will be kept in storage for an additional 25 years.
And as they place their own items in the capsule, the students will be prompted to consider how they will leave a mark on the school and on the community.
“We know that what candies they eat are different and the clothes they wear the shows they watch. But what they really care about is the same. Their hopes and dreams — that hasn’t changed. Kids here are going to learn the value of dignity, and when they know their own value, they can do worthwhile things,” Principal Madsen said.