Tuesday, May 31, 2011

TOP STORY >> Search on for buried Treasures

Leader staff writer

Even though a time capsule that was buried 35 years ago at Jacksonville Elementary School was not found, a ceremony Tuesday featured displays of bicentennial articles, photos and class portraits to commemorate the closing of the school.

The school is scheduled to permanently close at the end of this school year, as part of a plan by Pulaski County Special School District to build two new elementary schools and a new middle school in Jacksonville.

Nikki Stolzer, literacy-instructor facilitator, said school officials attempted to use a metal detector and a probe, a metal rebar that can be stuck in the ground and indicate where something is buried, to try to find the location of the time capsule.

The time capsule was supposed to have been dug up in 100 years, but the school decided to look for it sooner because of Jacksonville Elementary’s probable closing.

Principal Sonya Whitfield took out a can of spray paint and asked those gathered to “mark your spot” where they thought the capsule is buried. “We have shovels.”

She said she has received calls from California, Texas and Florida about where it might be located and although not finding it was disappointing, the community coming together to help the school was wonderful, she said.

Many from the class who buried it seem to think that the capsule is near the school’s bell, which is the original from when the first school was built in 1881, but it is thought that the capsule may have been moved when piping was laid underground in the 1980s.

Billie Abbott, the PTA president in 1976, offered a brief timeline of the site’s history and said another focus for the event is that the first school was built on the site in 1881. That school was a one-room log structure that housed students through the eighth grade. It was the first public school in the area.

Also at the event were Tina Peters and David Ellis, who were part of the class that buried the capsule. Neither remembered what they contributed to the capsule, but Peters said hers probably had something to do with Donny Osmond. Both said they thought the capsule was near the bell.

Peters remembered dressing in period clothing the week the capsule was buried in celebration of the school’s bicentennial. She said change was good, but the school was full of memories.

“It’s good for the community to get a new school,” she said. “At the same time, it’s sad (for the old school to be torn down).”

Ellis mentioned that busing could be a problem for parents who moved to that area so their children didn’t have to ride the bus.

Mayor Gary Fletcher spoke to a group of about 40, saying that although the planned demolition of the school was bittersweet for those who graduated from or attended it, sacrifice is part of getting better things like a new school.

“The future of Jacksonville education is very bright,” he said.

James Reid, the mayor in 1979, recalled how much the city has grown since he was in office, saying there was one red light at the time. He talked about the positive impact teachers had on him.

PCSSD Superintendent Charles Hopson told those gathered that he wanted Jacksonville to have the same good facilities as those at Sylvan Hills and in Maumelle.

“We plan on making a difference because we believe in Jacksonville. We believe in you,” he said.

The fifth-grade class sang “Seasons of Love.” The soloists were Shanaricka Parker and Walter Schleuter.

Attendees were invited to the cafeteria for refreshments and to look at historical displays the students helped put together.