Emerald Hill Elementary School celebrated 20 years of operation Oct. 31.
Principals, teachers and parents remembered the hard work it went into getting the school ready for students – nearly two months after the school year started.
Students who eventually would go to EHE were being taught at Floyd T. Binns, prior to it being renovated into a middle school.
Jim Allen, the first principal at the school, recalled the hard work it took to get students and faculty moved at a luncheon honoring the 20th anniversary Tuesday.
“It was busy because we started out at Floyd T. Binns because the building was not ready,” Allen said. “We did it over a week’s time – moving a class or two, but we had everybody in here Oct. 31. It just took a lot of work.”
That tradition of hard work has continued at the school, said current principal Pam Gatewood.
“I think there’s a certain tradition here at Emerald Hill,” Gatewood said. “One of the things we were looking at with our yearbook, is that we were one of the first schools to have white boards. We were just thinking about something so insignificant was significant back then.”
Leading up to the opening, Allen said parents would drive boxes over in pickups and teachers and the administration would work until 9 p.m. at night in an effort to have the school ready for students. They moved kindergarten first, followed by first and second grade, third and fourth and finally fifth grade.
“We knew the end was in sight so we were ready,” Allen said. “I thought we were going to miss the old building, but we got up here and then I never wanted to go back.”
Russell Houck, now executive director of student services for Culpeper County Public Schools, was the assistant principal at the time. He remembers wondering what would happen to Binns with the students leaving.
“I stayed behind at Binns until the final grade level left,” Houck said. “I remember doing the announcements that day and thinking about how the Binns building had been a Culpeper public school since 1949. At that point we had no idea if the building was going to be used again. To be honest, it was a melancholy day for me.”
But while it was sad to leave Binns, there was a joy in opening the new school.
Pam Baker returned on Tuesday. She was the gifted teacher at EHE in 1997 when they moved and she recalled her first impressions of the school.
“It was beautiful, it took a lot of work to open it but it paid off,” Baker said. “The kids were all in awe of everything.”
First grade teacher Gail Tremmel has been at the school for all 20 years. She said the spirit of Emerald Hill lives on.
“It was a very lively, spirited crew,” she said.
CCPS superintendent Dr. Tony Brads congratulated the school in 20 years.
“They put children first, they serve the community well,” Brads said. “It’s a well-maintained school. It’s a very welcoming environment.
Stevensburg District School Board representative Elizabeth Hutchins said that EHE has been a success story for 20 years for CCPS.
“It definitely took care of a need, the growth up here,” Hutchins said. “I thought the staff did a great job transitioning up here and it’s been a great school ever since.”