Orange Park Elementary celebrates 90 years

Kile Brewer
Posted 5/23/18

ORANGE PARK – Orange Park Police Officer Scott Lineberry thumbed through yearbooks on a table in the Orange Park Elementary library stacked with books from the 1980s.

Lineberry stood in a room …

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Orange Park Elementary celebrates 90 years

Posted

ORANGE PARK – Orange Park Police Officer Scott Lineberry thumbed through yearbooks on a table in the Orange Park Elementary library stacked with books from the 1980s.

Lineberry stood in a room with alumni that spanned decades, with some dating back to the earliest years of OPE during the school’s 90th anniversary party last Friday. Finally, he found one with his class picture.

“I started young I guess,” Lineberry said laughing. “This brings back a lot of old memories.”

In the photo, a fourth-grade version of Lineberry donned the orange and silver sash of the School Safety Patrol, complete with a badge noting his position on the school’s closest equivalent of a student police force. Lineberry, who was wearing his uniform and badge at the event, couldn’t believe he had worn the getup for the photo, but the younger version of himself looked very proud to wear the badge.

Elementary school is an important first step in a child’s life—where they learn their ABCs and how to make friends. Formative years spent in those early grades can shape the people they’ll be in high school, college, and for the rest of their lives. Organizers of the 90th anniversary party hoped to remind their alumni of the good times they had at the school when life was simpler.

“That’s my mother in her class photo from 1938,” said Sylvia Wortham, former ESE Secretary of about 25 years and volunteer for the 90th Anniversary. “I’ve had six grandchildren go here, two still do.”

Wortham was quick to volunteer, researching the early history of the school, when event planning kicked off about a year ago. Through her research she found photos and records from as far back as 1931. The school officially opened its doors in early 1928 after the building was built in 1927. Wortham explained that it was originally a school for Navy Officers and other higher-ups from local Naval Air Station Jacksonville. She said they are not the oldest school in the county, with that title going to Clay High, but they are proud to be the oldest elementary school.

Leading up to the big night, the school celebrated their birthday early with a week of activities for the students. Each grade level was assigned a different decade and students did reports on popular inventions from their era and even dressed up as 90-year-olds to make the school feel young again. Principal Carole McCullough said they really had fun with it, and most of all loved learning about old games like jacks, marbles and paddleball.

The night of, the school featured performances by the students, as well as history walks and a continuation of the old games. They also brought in old Ford Model A cars and a food truck to keep the multigenerational crowd happy and having fun.

“It’s all about the kids. We wanted the children spotlighted. I think they all had the best time [this week],” she said. “Nothing is more important and treasured than the history of a place, especially Orange Park Elementary because it’s at the heart of our town.”

McCullough said that over her years of education experience, including a stint as an ESE Specialist in the 90s before returning as principal, she notices something uniquely special about Orange Park Elementary. For her, the history of the school is special because not only has the school been around a long time, but also it’s always had the reputation of being a school that people want to go to, she said.

“This year out of our 66 sixth-graders, 62 started with us in Kindergarten,” she said. “Our students come in Kindergarten and they stay.”

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