It’s always nice to celebrate an anniversary or milestone of some sort – especially one that falls on a nice-round number like 10, 25 or 50.
On Tuesday, April 19, Lake Elementary School will do just that, celebrating the 50th anniversary of its existence.
But it almost didn’t get to this point.
A horrific tornado ravaged the area last June, killing seven and leaving a path of destruction that included Lake High School. The elementary school sustained considerable damage itself. During the storm, the tornado caused the roof of the building to be lifted up before it fell back down, leaving the facility in a compromised state.
|Lake Elementary is celebrating its 50th anniversary.|
A groundbreaking ceremony was held March 27 for the new high school, which is expected to be completed in August 2012.
After the tornado struck, engineers took approximately 10 days to determine if the elementary school building was suitable to be inhabited, ultimately deciding that the facility was safe enough to be used for the upcoming school year.
ServiceMaster, a company that provides disaster response and reconstruction services, helped clean up the school. Amidst the hard work and long hours invested by the company, carpets were torn out and removed and the facilities were cleansed. When all was said and done, roughly 30 classrooms had been refurbished and new ceiling tiles and skylights had been installed in the building.
But the clean-up effort and the “facelift” that the school received, which began shortly after the building was damaged on June 5, was barely completed in time before school began back in August.
“The last coats of paint were being applied the night before the first day of school,” said Christie McPherson, now in her second year as principal of the school.
The work done throughout the summer to make the building suitable for the upcoming school year was especially important in that it at least allowed some of the Lake students the opportunity to attend school in their regular facilities, helping to maintain a small sense of comfort after the tragic events. Because of the immense damage inflicted upon the high school facilities, Lake High School students have attended school this year at Owens Community College’s facilities.
“We’re glad that we didn’t get displaced -- it would’ve been harder to function as a district,” said McPherson, who graduated from Lake High School, as did her children. “We’re thankful (the building) still exists.”
In 50 years, Lake Elementary School has undergone its share of changes, experiencing some ups and downs along the way, especially in its early stages of existence.
One of the chief reasons this area of land was chosen for the school is because of its central location with respect to Walbridge, Millbury and Moline.
When the building was constructed back in 1960, the bond issue was $740,000 and the cost of the elementary building was $409,327. When adding in the cost of the music and cafeteria addition ($195,851), the athletic addition ($21,000) and the sewage plant ($19,434), the full cost of the facility was actually $645,612.
When the school opened during the 1960-61 school year, there were 18 classrooms responsible for housing students attending Kindergarten thru sixth grade.
Three years after the building opened, an addition was made when 14 rooms were added. From the 1967-68 thru the 1968-69 school years, Millbury Elementary was shut down because of financial problems, leaving those students to attend school at Lake Elementary. It caused class sizes to balloon to roughly 38, making for an environment more hectic and non-conducive to learning.
Fortunately, however, Millbury Elementary reopened two years later, and things returned to normal.
Currently, there are approximately 500 students attending Lake Elementary that make up six classes apiece of second, third, fourth and fifth grade. Preschool, kindergarten and first grade students attend school in Walbridge.
The community is invited to the anniversary festivities, which begin at 5:15 p.m. when members of the school’s student council will take visitors on a tour of the building. Later, at 6 p.m., the second-graders will sing and entertain the crowd in the auditorium.
“I want to give an opportunity to people that used to work here, used to attend the school, a chance to see the school,” said McPherson.
For more information on the event, call 419-661-6682.