Tucked away behind long blocks of brick homes, the outside of North Springfield Elementary School hasn't changed much in the school's 50-year history.
Inside, however, students walk in hallways named after the school's six character education components: respect, perseverance, courage, cooperation, honesty and responsibility.
"When the school opened, there was no gymnasium," said principal Alice Alexander, who taught at the school for seven and a half years before becoming principal four years ago.
North Springfield is one of three schools that opened in 1956, along with Crestwood and Lynbrook.
"After World War II, people came back and built these little homes, so we needed the schools," Alexander said of the population and education boom. "The dads worked for the government, the moms stayed home with the kids. Lots of people just stayed here after their kids grew up, this hasn't been a transient community like the rest of Springfield."
Now the school has three full-time ESOL teachers, 100 preschool students and teaches grades kindergarten through fifth, as sixth graders have gone to Holmes Middle School, she said.
The also has an active PTA, which Alexander believes sends the message to students that their education is important.
PARENT VOLUNTEERS, along with the help of teachers and students, will be helping the school celebrate their 50th anniversary with two big events on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 20 and 21.
"We plan to count decades backwards from 2000 to the 1950s, to tie in the 50s and our anniversary," said kindergarten teacher Kathy Nealon, wearing a bright blue T-shirt with the school's anniversary announced in white cloud lettering.
On Fridays, teachers and students are encouraged to wear clothing from each decade, culminating in a sock hop complete with poodle skirts on Oct. 20, Nealon said. Students will also be asked trivia questions based on each decade daily during the five weeks leading up to the celebration, she said.
Students will also learn song medleys from each decade and will perform them during a sing-a-long the same afternoon, Nealon said, at the end of which the entire school will sing the school song and "Happy Birthday."
On Saturday, Oct. 21, the school will be opened for a special ceremony including School Board member Tessie Wilson (Braddock), former principals, teachers and PTA presidents, along with members of the North Springfield Civic Association, which is also turning 50 this year, Alexander said. Following a more formal ceremony, members of the school staff and PTA will break out the games and food for a more relaxed, family-oriented party.
Wilson said she's happy to be a part of the school's half-century celebration.
"This is one of the few schools I know of where the community has a real symbiotic relationship with the school," Wilson said. "One of the reasons is because it is such a great school is because everyone has a vested interest in the education of the kids who go there."
"We're going to combine our Fall Festival and our spring Family Fun Night and turn it into a kind of old-fashioned town fair," Alexander said.
IN MUSIC and art classes, students will be making decorations and posters that will line the halls in the school as well.
"Right now, the second graders are starting a section on drawing," said art teacher Teryl Pomeroy. "They'll be drawing pictures of Chopper, our mascot, who is a beaver," she said, with a diagram of how easy it is to draw a beaver in her hand.
"Next week, they'll be drawing how they feel about growing up here and going to school at North Springfield," Pomeroy said.
And if that weren't enough to get students and their families excited about the party, the school is selling slap bracelets, T-shirts, spirit tags, stadium cups and plush beavers wearing blue North Springfield T-shirts. In one display case near the office, the items are all out for students to see, including a small Chopper wearing a silver "Happy Birthday" tiara.
Other goodies for the celebration include, possibly, a magician, said Jenette Eddy, who Alexander said spent most of the summer organizing the event.
"I see it all and I can't wait," Eddy said. "It's pretty exciting. It's taken a lot to get out to the community but they're staring to get into it."
Eddy said she's still hoping alumni will send in old photographs or written memories of their days at North Springfield, to be used in a small museum during the anniversary weekend.
As PTA president, Kathleen Mahboob said she's been helping to plan the event for a few months.
"We want to make it a real special event for the children and the community," Mahboob said. "This school is a wonderful place to send children."
She has two children who attended North Springfield, one of which is a fifth grader now.
"He knows what's going on because he's seen me working on the celebration," Mahboob said. "He's very excited about it too."
The PTA will be in charged of some games, carnival rides and food concessions during the town fair on Oct. 21, she said.
"We've also invited some outside organizations, like the scouts and little league teams, to show off what they have to offer the community," she said.