Thursday, September 20, 2012
Falling Water Elementary celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, and the school is holding a special event to honor the occasion Saturday, Sept. 22 from 4-8 p.m.
“Falling Water is a fantastic school,” said event organizer Jennifer Gibbs of the small community school currently serving 262 students. “I believe it’s the only school that’s turned 100 in Hamilton County.”
The event will feature dinner and a silent auction of items and services such as restaurant gift cards, beauty products and hair care, with proceeds going to the school.
Gibbs emphasized the need for additional funds to improve the school, where more than half the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
She said a slide show of old photos is sure to conjure up memories for attendees, who will have the opportunity to reconnect with other alumni as well as former teachers and principals, who will be recognized at the celebration.
“Not many schools get to be 100,” said Lea Ann Burk, the school’s principal for the past two years. “This is a real community school. We continue to excel academically, and I think that’s because of the continued support of the community.”
She also credits the time invested by the school’s teachers for its staying power.
“Our least-senior teacher in the building has been here 18 years,” said Burk. “Here, we know every parent and every extended family member by the sound of their voice.”
Twins Matthew and Hannah Willis, who started kindergarten at Falling Water this fall, are the fifth generation of their family to attend the school. Their grandmother Karan Johnson, Class of ‘78, and mother Amber Willis, Class of ‘97, both started kindergarten in the same classroom as the twins. Their great-grandfather George Selcer, Class of ‘53, was a student when the school installed indoor plumbing. His father Wallace Selcer attended Falling Water from 1916-1923 when the school was just two rooms.
George Selcer’s fondest memories involve cafeteria workers Sudie Johnson and Kate Barker. He recallsed their specialty pineapple upside down cake dessert and tasting wild onions in the milk before pasteurization.
“Kids that left there ought to have been giant,” he said, referring to the extra-large portions served in the cafeteria.
Johnson said when she attended Falling Water, students paid $1.25 a week for lunch. The twins’ lunches are now $2.50 per day, said Amber Willis.
“And they don’t get what we got,” said Selcer.
Custodians Ken Settles and Cooter Pitts also stand out in his mind, along with the softball team coached by Mr. Peteyhouse.
“We hate to see the school go,” said Johnson, as the county plans to close the school and combine it with Ganns-Middle Valley Elementary in a new building within five to seven years. “To me it’s like a private school with 17-18 students in a class instead of 25-30. Falling Water is just a really good school.”