Bubbling with excitement, Walnut Avenue Elementary School students lined up Friday morning (Nov. 4) to form a giant 50 on their school playfield. A photographer atop a very tall ladder captured the moment as part of the Chino school’s 50th Anniversary Celebration assembly.
The school — built with some of the proceeds of an $8 million bond — opened its doors on March 15, 1966 to help accommodate growth in Chino, said Principal Karen Morales, who served as mistress of ceremonies for the assembly in the school quad. At the time of Walnut’s opening, an average home cost $14,000. Today, the new homes behind Walnut cost $536,000, Morales said.
The principal said she has spent 24 of her 25 years in the Chino Valley Unified School District at Walnut as a teacher, and later as an administrator.
“I was here for the 25th (anniversary),” she said. “I was here for the 40th, and now I am here for the 50th. You can be sure I will be back for the 75th.”
Morales said the school also has a great academic legacy. She said the school’s Academic Performance Index (API) score increased 85 points in 2002, the highest increase that year of all San Bernardino County schools.
About five of Walnut’s teachers actually attended the school as children, and several other teachers have children attending the school, Morales said. Instructional Coach Kris Ives has the longest tenure at Walnut, 27 years.
She provided all the students and staff with a commemorative water bottle to mark the occasion.
San Bernardino County Schools Superintendent Ted Alejandre also attended the assembly, commending the school on reaching its golden anniversary, and for being such a beautiful campus.
“I’m home!” former Walnut Avenue Elementary School Principal Ken Hawkins told the assembly crowd. Coming from Indiana for the event, he encouraged students and staff members to make their memories of the school about people. “Smile at someone every day…do something good for someone every day,” he said.
Walnut Avenue sixth-grader Ramon Montes-Torres was the official student speaker for the event. At the school since kindergarten, Ramon thanked several individual teachers for helping him learn different skills throughout the years. He said he wants to be a civil engineer.
Other speakers included Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education President Andrew Cruz, board members Irene Hernandez-Blair and James Na, and Walnut’s Parent Faculty Association President Aida Jimenez.
Student Council President Elsa Mercado led the Pledge of Allegiance for the assembly, and music teacher Lindsay Roche played the “Star Spangled Banner” on the French horn.
Kindergarten and transitional kindergarten students sang songs, and the sixth-graders danced and sang to “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang.
An anniversary festival, featuring games, entertainment and food, was held that evening.