Fourth-grade teacher Ann Simonds can remember getting purple ink on her hands when mimeographing copies of worksheets — and when students didn’t have worksheets, she would use chalk to write on the blackboard. Doors would be open to allow a cross breeze to cool the hot classrooms. Students and parents alike looked forward to every December, when the school hosted a huge art show: student drawings and paintings would line the hallways and students would take part in a big production that included singing and speaking.
Peruvian Park Elementary has changed during the 37 years Simonds has taught at the school, and, to celebrate its 50 years, a birthday bash will take place at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21.
“We will have special activities and treats during school, including having students dress for school like students from 1964 and holding an ice-cream social,” Parent-Teacher Association President Rebecca Martin said.
During two hours that evening, Peruvian Park will hold an outside street fair that will include face painting, a fish pond and other games, music, fire truck, police car, artist sketches, balloons, posters, food trucks, two 1965 Mustang convertibles, a school choir performance and a birthday cake. The arrival of the panther mascot will also be part of the celebration.
Inside will be poster and essay contest winners on display, a timeline showing historically what has happened during the past 50 years, and a PowerPoint program showing changes the school has gone through.
Second-grade teacher Jackie Sudbury said she has taught Peruvian Park students 24 of the 38 years she has taught, and during that time, she has seen class sizes become smaller (from 34 students to about 20), the common core expanded, and a decrease of arts education in the school.
“We’re a lot more rigid in academics and testing and there are fewer opportunities for creativity and arts,” she said. “The focus of schools has become more on achievement and skills content and test scores.”
Sudbury has seen changes within the building as well, with one major repainting, a carpet change, new tile in the cafeteria, two playground updates, many report card changes and updates in the technical world, such as projectors, white boards, surround sound microphones, student use of iPads and computers, and even teacher identification badges. She said even the cafeteria standards now are dedicated to meet the federal menu guidelines.
However, Simonds, who has taught about 1,000 students under 10 principals and said even with changes at the school, some things come back around.
“They had moved sixth grade to the middle schools before when the elementary schools were crowded; then they came back. Now, they’re back in the middle schools. It all just comes back around. It has been so gradual so it doesn’t seem like a shock when something changes. I’ve taught second, third, fourth and a fourth-fifth split class, and I’ve taught kids of kids I’ve taught. Fourth graders are fun. They’re showing their own independence. But kids are always just kids wanting to learn,” she said.
Former and current students, faculty, staff, families and community leaders and members are invited to the birthday bash and have an opportunity to share memories and photos by emailing PeruvianParkPTA@gmail.com. To learn more about the 50th birthday bash, see www.facebook.com/peruvianpark50th
“We want to celebrate Peruvian Park that has been a part of the community for 50 years. This is a chance for alumni, teachers and staff to connect and celebrate the education of thousands of children,” Martin said.