Centennial celebration in the works for Pa. school

July 25, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Not much at Mary B. Sharpe Elementary School has changed since the two-story brick building opened in 1908.

An addition in 1924 doubled the structure from four rooms to eight.

Since then, buzzer systems and intercoms have added to the security and communications.

But it's really what has stayed the same that will soon be celebrated at the venerable school.

"Not many school buildings reach a milestone like this: One hundred continuous years of use as an elementary school for the children in the north end of Chambersburg," Joan Bowen said.

Bowen taught third grade at Mary B. Sharpe, on Broad Street, from 1962 to 1968. Now she and others connected to the school are in the early stages of planning for its centennial celebration.


They next meet at 7 p.m. on Aug. 13 in the Renaissance social room of Penn Hall retirement community along U.S. 11; all current and former students, staff and parents are invited to attend.

"It is just a very unique school. It's got wood floors, and when you walk in, there's a different smell to it. There aren't other buildings like it," said Janet Friend, who taught third grade there in 1972 and 1973 as well as from 1975 to 1987.

She described a "great experience" at the school now attended by 175 students guided by seven teachers.

"Everybody kind of knew everybody," Friend said.

"There was always an atmosphere of congeniality among the students. There was very little bickering, contention or competition. They all seemed to get along well," Bowen said.

Bowen and Friend occasionally encounter Mary B. Sharpe alumni in the community.

"If I meet any former students in the course of everyday (life) ... I usually get for them a photograph of their class," Bowen said, explaining she snapped a picture of each class.

"Photographs weren't taken every year during that era," she said.

Bowen recalled saving student art for the annual exhibit just before summer vacations.

"When I taught there, we had a Halloween parade and everybody dressed up, including the teachers. We walked up Park Avenue ... and people would be standing along the street, looking at us," said Friend, who helped to organize the 75th anniversary celebration. It included a tree planting and stone plaque dedication, she said.

Between Bowen's first and second years of teaching at Mary B. Sharpe, the school replaced its scrolled iron student desks with a different set of desks and chairs. The old ones had the seat connected to the desk behind it, so only students in the back row had a separated seat.

"That's one of the most noticeable changes, I guess," Bowen said.

Bowen bought one of the desks and a separated seat, both of which are preserved at the Chambersburg Area School District administrative building.

People who would like to participate in planning the celebration, but cannot attend the Aug. 13 meeting, can e-mail

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