June 20, 2008

Students Got Room to Grow in Fairview

By Tawnya Panizzi

On a snowy day in February 1958, Fairview Elementary School opened its doors to anxious staff and students who were previously piled 40 to a class at Dorseyville Elementary.

"We didn't have art or computer classes," said Lois Wilson, the first-ever first-grade teacher at the new Indiana Township school. "But from the first day to now, it's been an extraordinary school filled with enthusiastic people."

Wilson was on hand during the recent celebration of the school's 50th anniversary.

An assembly in the gymnasium brought together some 20 former teachers, principals and school employees.

The retirees shared stories of days gone by as students chuckled at old photos shown on a big screen.

"There's always been a high level of caring here," said Principal Sari McNamara. "There's a strong interaction between teachers and parents, with children as the focus."

Wilson told students that Fairview was born of necessity as the school district grew more popular. Dorseyville Elementary School housed children from Indiana Township and became so crowded that at one point there were 49 students in one room.

"That room had only 35 desks," she said. "We couldn't wait to move."

When the day finally arrived, students and teachers were part of the moving effort.

Everyone arrived at Dorseyville with a shopping bag and packed them with books and pencils.

Teachers filled their cars, Wilson said, and they made a new home at Fairview.

At first, the students shared their new space with workmen. It was at least seven months before the cafeteria was finished. Students ate lunch in their classrooms, Wilson said.

"We didn't even have a library at first," she said. "Teachers kept books in each room and called them each a classroom library."

Much has changed since then. The 365 students who attend Fairview can participate in a variety of activities that include a multicultural night, peer tutoring and a school musical.

Fairview offers a program called Great Expectations, in which students may take after-school classes in subjects that include macrame and chocolate-making.

"We have activities to meet students of all abilities," McNamara said.

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