Port Royal Elementary celebrates "a century of learning"

September 24, 2011 

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Wally Cole and Chip Clowney hadn't seen each other in 40 years when Saturday's 100th anniversary celebration of Port Royal Elementary School brought the pair together for an unexpected reunion.

The two men attended the school in the 1950s, during the days of corporal punishment, segregation and polio vaccines.

The rooms where they attended class include the small part of the building that remains from 1911.

While much has changed over time at the 100-year-old school, administrators and parents say its essence has remained the same.

Most of the children who now attend the school on the town's main avenue still walk or bike to class instead of taking the bus. Once there, they walk to field trips at the post office and fire headquarters.

Another thing is unchanged: "Everybody knows everybody," Clowney said.

When parents walk in, teachers know their names and their children's names -- something centennial celebration chairman Brian Hermann called a "lost part of America."

Former principals of the school, Port Royal officials and parents shared memories.

Bernie Schein described his tenure as principal, when the school was integrated with Pat Conroy's students from Daufuskie Island.

Former principal Kay Keeler said the community's support and the school's passionate teachers have helped Port Royal Elementary remain open during several attempts to close it over the years.

"The mission is to come here and get a good strong foundation, then leave and make the world a better place," Keeler said.

School Improvement Council chairwoman Susanne Baisch described how her grandmother volunteered at the school's library and now enjoys watching the children walk past her nearby retirement home on their way to swimming lessons at the YMCA.

She thanked students and administrators -- past and present -- for the "energy and excitement as we begin our second century of learning."

After the speeches, students raised a flag in the school yard that had flown over the U.S. Capitol Building, a gift from U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson. Then young and old alike gathered near the playground for birthday cake and lemonade.

It seemed just like old times.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.

Related content:

Preliminary school-closure list ruffles Port Royal parents, community, July 11, 2011

Port Royal plans big celebration for school's 100th birthday, Jan. 27, 2011

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