By Suzanne Schmidt
In the last 62 years, Sanders Elementary has spawned three schools including Denham Oaks and Oakstead and finally the brand new Connerton Elementary School.
The school, 5126 School Road, will close its doors in June for an indefinite period. Students, faculty and administration will move to the brand new Connerton Elementary School at the beginning of the 2010-11 school year. All but four buildings will be torn down with the intention to rebuild one day when the student population calls for another school in the area.
The administration and staff at Sanders invites the community to one last look at Sanders Farewell Tribute and Open House 1 to 4 p.m. April 24. Marc Seligman, tech specialist at the school, is helping to coordinate the farewell tribute.
“The school has grown and spawned many different schools through the years like Oakstead and Denham Oaks,” Seligman said. “We are hoping to have the students take people on tours through the school so they can see how much it has changed.”
The school is searching for students, former staff and anyone from the community who has memories to share. Seligman said he is hoping to make a presentation out of all the entries to show at the farewell tribute.
“At different times, there have been so many people who have left an impression here,” Seligman said. “We have invited past principals and sent notices out to all the schools in Pasco. We are hoping to get former faculty and students to attend. We are looking for people who will be willing to be video taped.”
Susan Dubendorfer, literacy coach at the school, is also helping to coordinate the event.
“After 62 years as a school, we felt it was appropriate to celebrate the learning, camaraderie and the history of the school,” Dubendorfer said. “This has always been a community school so that is why we wanted to end it this way.”
Pam Jones, first-grade teacher, said she will miss the school but she understands the necessity of tearing it down.
“There are so many generations in this area who have their heartstrings tied to this place,” Jones said. “The building is at that point where it would cost as much to repair it as it would to rebuild it. They had to make that decision.”
Betty Thompson, formerly Betty Jean Henley, has many fond memories from her time spent at Sanders Memorial Elementary School. She was a fifth-grader at the school when it opened in September 1948. The school opened with 114 students in first through seventh grade and cost $57,000 to build.
“It was exciting back then to go to a new school,” Thompson said. “It was different back then. We all would wear shoes to school, but then when we got there we would take them off. It wasn’t anything like it is today. It was more country.”
Thompson was not only a student at the school in 1980, she was also a school board member. She also wrote a number of articles about the history of the area for “Freedom Press,” the community newspaper.
“I have always been very aware of what was happening in the school,” Thompson said. “After I was a school board member, I volunteered at the media center.”
One of her fondest memories is of her music teacher.
“I remember during recess I used to watch Letty Jon Coker, she was a majorette,” Thompson said. “Her and my music teacher Mrs. Aiken taught me how to twirl a baton.”
Thompson said her children Emmett Thompson, Scott Thompson and Susan Archer all went to school at Sanders.
“I am sad to see it go but I think I agree with the decision,” Thompson said. “The history will still be there.”
Juanita McGregor of Land O’ Lakes was a teacher at Sanders for 34 years. She started there in 1972 and retired four years ago.
“I feel sad because I spent a good part of my life there,” McGregor said. “I watched the buildings get added and saw the kids grow up. We were all like one big family. The school always had a special atmosphere to it.”
McGregor said the area has changed a lot since she started teaching there.
“It used to be more rural,” McGregor said. “There is more of a diverse population now. We didn’t have as many students from other countries. It was mostly farm kids who lived in Land O’ Lakes. We didn’t have computers and kids played outside more then. The parental supports was better then too because not a lot of moms worked.”
McGregor is one of the few people who remember where the time capsule is at the school. It is in one of the buildings that will not be torn down.
“We put the time capsule into the wall when the building was built,” McGregor said. “Jen Young, Becky Nash and I put pictures, samples of the students work and other things that were popular at the time like the wild designed shoelaces.”
McGregor also remembers that Sanders had a few different mascots.
“When I first started it was the Sanders Saber, which was a sword,” McGregor said. “Then it was a stallion. Marti Meacher became the principal and decided to change the mascot. We had a committee and came up with the star which is what it is today.”
She said she is looking forward to seeing the school one last time before it is demolished.
“I have a lot of fond memories,” McGregor said. “I was walking on those same sidewalks since I was 22-years-old. It was always a top-notch school.”
The school was named after James Wilson Sanders, a teacher, principal, county superintendant and judge. He devoted a lot of his time to the promotion of better schools in the community. It was largely through his vision and efforts that the construction of the school was instigated.
The school is selling commemorative buttons in order to raise money for a playground at the new school. The goal is to raise from $35,000 to $50,000.
For more information, call Marc Seligman at (813) 794-1517 or visit http://sanders.pasco.k12.fl.us.
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