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50th birthday celebration bittersweet for Conococheague Elementary

Excitement was overshadowed by the possibility of a new facility that could replace the school

May 23, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • Conococheague Elementary School Principal Nicole Paylor addresses the crowd at the school's 50th anniversay celebration Wednesday night at the school.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

Dozens of people streamed through the doors of Conococheague Elementary School Wednesday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the school, known for its small, intimate feel and the close-knit community that strongly supports it.

The milestone was celebrated during a two-hour program that started at 5 p.m. at the school located on Learning Lane off U.S. 40 west of Hagerstown. It included games for kids, cake and punch, and singing performances by students.

Although there was excitement at the celebration, it was tempered by the possibility of a new facility that could replace the school along with Winter Street Elementary School.

“I’m really sad about it,” said Nikki Allen, who likes how her son, Vincent, has been able to move through grades at the school with the same group of students.

On Tuesday, the Washington County Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of a 16.5-acre tract behind Walmart in Hagerstown’s West End for a new “West City” elementary school that could replace Conococheague and Winter Street elementary schools.

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The county can back out of the $1.5 million purchase if officials change their mind about the site after studying it, county officials have said.

Conococheague Principal Nicole Paylor said the school hit its 50th birthday last year, but she said officials wanted to have the celebration in the spring.

“What a year to be in the building and to celebrate,” said Paylor, who is serving her first year as principal.

There was a PowerPoint presentation about the school’s history, and guests gathered in front of a stage in the center of the school, while students sang a handful of numbers.

The crowd was then invited to the back of the room for some cake and punch. Various memorabilia was for sale, including a small replica of the school.

Michele Martineau said she and her family just moved to the area but, did not feel her two sons’ needs were being met at their former school. One of her sons, who is in the first grade at Conococheague Elementary, is autistic.

“My son with autism is reading, he’s part of the regular classroom environment.... Washington County Schools are great. I can’t say enough about them,” Martineau said.

Ruby Byers, who was among the first group of teachers at Conococheague Elementary, came to the celebration with her husband, Bill.

Byers said she was teaching at the old Huyetts School along U.S. 40 when she moved into the new school.

“I spent many years here,” said Byers, who retired from the school in 1984.

Her husband Bill, who is 95, taught driver’s education at Williamsport High School.

Ruth Hammond, who came from Huyetts School, was among the first students to attend Conococheague Elementary and had Byers for a teacher.

Hammond recalled how Conococheague Elementary didn’t have air conditioning, which is still true today in parts of the building.

But that didn’t matter to Hammond because there wasn’t air conditioning at Huyetts School, either.

“We were just happy to have a cafeteria,” she said.

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