Port Angeles elementary school to celebrate 90th year
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Former Jefferson Elementary School student Margie Faires, 90, of Port Angeles, stands in front of the school on Wednesday with her daughter, Theresa Schmid, who currently teaches at Jefferson.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Jefferson Elementary School, the oldest school still operating in the Port Angeles School District, will celebrate 90 years of education at an Alumni Tea and Spring Fair on Friday night.

The 90th anniversary celebration will kick off with the tea for student and staff alumni at 4:30 p.m., followed by the Spring Fair from 5:30 p.m. to
7 p.m., at the school at 218 E. 12th St.

The Spring Fair will feature a sock hop in a hot air balloon, dinner, a carnival, and activities for both children and adults.

At least one alumna who began the first grade at the school in 1922 — the year the school opened — will be present at the tea.

Margie Faires, 90, of Port Angeles was a member of the first class of students to attend Jefferson from first through sixth grade.

“It's hard to imagine the way it was. It was all new. The school was wonderful,” Faires said.

Today, the exterior still looks much the same, but the new interior entrance is beautiful, she said.

Early teachers couldn't be married, and her favorite teacher, Violet Neil, had to quit midyear after she wed, Faires said.

Faires has had four generations of family at Jefferson. Her mother at one time worked as a cook at the school; her daughter, Theresa Schmid, was a student and currently teaches there; and her granddaughter, now a college student, also is an alumna.

The first principal of the school was Bertha Hartt, and the Jefferson School Parent-Teacher Association opened the school with a celebratory open house featuring readings, music, “light refreshments” and tours of the new building, according to a 1922 clipping from an unidentified newspaper.

Faires won't be the only notable alumna at Friday's celebration.

Bids will be accepted during the fair for one person to have the chance to drop Port Angeles Mayor Cherie Kidd, a Jefferson alumna, into a dunk tank at the end of the evening.

“This is the only group I think I would do this for,” Kidd said.

Kidd, who attended the elementary school in the 1950s, will get wet, promised Carrie Sanford, president of the Jefferson School Parent-Teacher Association.

“If the winner misses, I will push the lever,” she said.

During the fair, Capt. Crystal Stout of Morning Star Hot Air Balloon Co. in Sequim will bring a balloon for the sock hop to be held behind the school.

“The balloon will take up most of the field,” Sanford said.

Large fans are set up to keep the balloon partially inflated. The dancers — wearing socks to protect the fabric — will dance inside, she explained.

DJ ShmeeJay will provide music for the event.

Activities will include carnival games and a silent auction, and food will be available.

School logo T-shirts and other spirit gear also will be available for sale, Sanford said.

Engraved bricks, to complete a paved path on the northwest side of the school, will be offered for $30 each or five for $120.

Teachers and staff members will take turns in a dunk tank. Chances to dunk a staff member will be sold for $2 per ball or three for $5.

All proceeds will support the Jefferson PTO's Enrichment Fund, which provides field trips, guest speakers, technological equipment and support, and more.

Jefferson's opening was part of a major expansion of schools in Port Angeles.

From 1912 through 1923, the school district replaced several small wooden school buildings with four large schools — Jefferson, Lincoln School, Washington School and Roosevelt High School — to accommodate a rapidly growing population of young families.

Roosevelt High, once located where the new Clallam County Courthouse building and parking lot currently are, was built in 1912.

Most of Roosevelt was torn down after it was replaced by the current Port Angeles High School in 1953.

The school's gymnasium, now known as the Vern Burton Community Center at 308 E. Fourth St., is the only remaining portion of the school.

Lincoln School, located on West Eighth Street, was built in 1916 and was closed in 1978. It is undergoing renovations to provide facilities for the Clallam County Historical Society.

Washington School was built in 1923, where the U.S. Post Office is currently located at 424 E. First St., and closed in 1975.

Jefferson is the only one of the original four schools still open, but little of the original building remains.

The majority of the school was demolished in June 2001 and reopened in January 2003.

Only the 1922 brick facade and entryway were saved as a link to the history of the school, said Principal Joyce Mininger.

The windows over the main front entryway are the original 1922 windows, she said.

It is currently the smallest school in the district, with only two classrooms per grade.

In 1998, the district asked voters to approve a bond to rebuild the school with more classrooms, but a smaller bond was approved, limiting the size of the school.

The small size of the property is also a limiting factor in the number of students, school district officials have said.

Jefferson Elementary is not the oldest operating school in the county, according to Clallam County Schools East to West, by Irene Wyman.

Wyman says a portion of Sequim High School was built in 1920.

The old Forks High School building, which was replaced except for the arched entryway in 2011, was built in 1916.

Some difficulties Jefferson Elementary has faced haven't changed over the years, said PTO President Carrie Sanford.

A search of the Clallam County Historical Society archives revealed a 1922 article in which a member of the brand-new Jefferson Parent-Teacher Association bemoaned the difficulty in getting fathers involved in the school, Sanford said.

Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 08. 2013 6:17PM
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