Al Chymia Temple, under the leadership of Potentate Wray Williams, the founder, began the sponsorship of the Shrine School on July 1, 1945. Since that date, the school has been a joint venture of Al Chymia Temple and the Memphis Board of Education. The Shriner’s have concentrated their efforts primarily on the financial and physical needs of the school. The Nobles of Al Chymia and their Ladies have performed innumerable services for the school. The administration of the school, the criteria for eligibility, and the assignment of teachers and students have been the responsibility of the Board of Education.
The purpose of the Shrine School is to provide the best possible program of education and rehabilitation for severely physically handicapped children, grades K through twelve.
Students vary drastically in their needs for special services. Variations occur in the number of special services needed, the intensity and urgency of these services and the length of time that such services are needed. We have some students who require virtually every service available while others need only one special service or facility. A few students have entered at age five and remained until age twenty or twenty-one. Others have returned to regular schools after as little as six weeks at Shrine School.
During the school year 1945-46, the Shrine School personnel consisted of a principal-teacher, a physical therapist and four classroom teachers, including the art teacher. Two school busses provided transportation for all of the students.
Now, the personnel includes a principal, a curriculum coordinator, sixteen teachers, a media specialist, a speech pathologist, two physical therapists, two occupational therapists, and forty special education aides. In addition to these people, professionals are provided for the following areas on a regular basis – guidance counselor, music teacher, teacher for the visually limited, social worker, dentist and dental assistant, computer technician, and a wheel chair mechanic. Volunteers are also used in the Shrine School to assist in the classroom, in therapy and in the cafeteria.
The school has an excellent working relationship with the University of Memphis and contract services with the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry, and the Southern College of Optometry. Al Chymia provides both dental and eye care.
Students are transported from their homes by a fleet of mini-buses especially designed for wheel chairs as well as regular seated passengers. A special circular drive with overhanging roof was built for loading and unloading students on the buses under any weather conditions.
The new Shrine School at 4259 Forrest View Drive is ultra-modern. Designed especially to eliminate architectural barriers. In 1992, the Shrine School Board built a $50,000 playground next to the indoor swimming pool that is easily accessible to wheel chairs. We have purchased 100 computers and are connected to the World Wide Web Network. Our enrollment is up to 150 students with 35 buses providing their transportation. We have spent $30,000 on portable walls to enclose the various classrooms.
After careful testing, carpeting was selected which is hard enough to allow easy mobility for wheelchairs and crutches, yet at the same time provide a cushioning effect to prevent injury to students who fall frequently. Rest room fixtures are both home and hospital types that suit the needs of all students. Special areas are provided for art, science, dentistry, and each type of therapy.
Shrine School provides a full academic program for grades K through twelve and is accredited by the Southern Association of High Schools and Colleges. Most of our high school students are able to take some of their courses at either Sheffield High or Sheffield Vocational Center, both of which are located on the same campus as Shrine School. The Shrine School is connected to Sheffield Elementary so that our students can share assembly programs, plays, recitals, etc., with Sheffield students. Students who learn to compensate for their physical handicaps can phase into a regular school program on a gradual basis, thus making the transition easier for everyone. Only through the fine cooperation of the administrators and faculties of all four schools could this be accomplished.
The financial responsibility of maintaining the Shrine School with all of its special services is great. In 1945, Al Chymia Temple, whereby Shriners and friends could make a donation as a memorial to a loved one or friend, started a Shrine School Memorial Fund. The Shrine School Board of Directors has built this fund to a point where the revenues can be used to pay the expenses of many services provided to keep the excellent standard of operation at the Shrine School of Memphis. The Shriners of Al Chymia are proud to be a part in helping the Shrine School in providing these special services to some of the handicapped children of this community.
Because we care!