Belvedere Elementary celebrates 60 years

  • Thursday, February 6, 2014

photo by bill Bengtson Nine-year-olds Alyssa Brady and Pax Rogers tackle their fourth-grade art assignment to create a “flying circus” on Friday afternoon, with weaving as part of the lesson, at Belvedere Elementary School. Each is also decked out in 1950s-style clothing, as part of a weeks-long celebration of their school's 60th anniversary.

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While Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio were getting married, the first students were walking through the halls of Belvedere Elementary School.


The school is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. Along the way, the students have dressed up through the decades. Two weeks ago it was '50s day, and this past Friday it was '60s day, and kids dressed up as 100-year-olds to celebrate the 100th day of school, thanks to the weather.


The celebration also goes beyond just the building itself and the milestone year, according to Matt Franklin, a fifth-grade teacher who is the chairman of the celebration committee.


“This is a fabulous school. It shows that this celebration is not just about the school building but the community, as well,” he said. “This community has been around since the '50s and it is still doing well. We have great students and parents in this community. The teachers will all tell you that teaching here is awesome. There is not much of a teacher turnover here at Belvedere. We have several teachers with over 30 years of teaching at this building, and many more with 20 or more years. To me, that says a lot. Teachers enjoy teaching at Belvedere.”


The reason for the school being built is that in the early 20th century the community felt the need for an elementary school. Funds needed to be raise to match that given by the state of South Carolina. So, the community sold homemade ice cream at the street car shop, had boxed suppers and other projects.


In 1918, Belvedere Elementary School was built on land donated by William Thurmond, the father of Sen. Strom Thurmond. It consisted of three rooms and accommodated grades one through eight. Then, in 1954, a modern, fire-resistant brick school was built on land donated by Miller H. Karnes in Belvedere Ridge.


Though the school looks largely the same, there have been many additions and alterations throughout the years. There was an entire wing added behind the school. A physical education building was added, and the playground has undergone many changes.


Of course that also doesn't take into account the hundreds of teachers and thousands of students who have walked through the halls since the school opened.


Many of those students are sons or daughters, grandsons or granddaughters or other family members. Going to Belvedere Elementary has become a family tradition to many, according to Alison Churm, the school's principal.


“Belvedere has a rich history of serving this community and providing a quality education to all students in this neighborhood,” she said. “This community has a respect for education and they want their children to come here and 'do their best.' Our motto at Belvedere is 'Live, Love, Learn, and Leave a Legacy.' It is the 'Leave a Legacy' part that we are focusing on with the students during our birthday celebration this year. We are not only talking about our past, but also our future and how we become great leaders, great citizens of our community. The fun activities our committee has planned will help inspire this message. The Belvedere community is the most supportive community I have ever experienced in all my time as a school administrator. I know they will continue to support us in celebrating our 60th birthday.”


In addition to the themed days, students from Heather Hargrove's art classes will decorate the cafeteria with their handprints. Former students have also been asked to send in some of their favorite experiences, which will be displayed on the bulletin board by the front door.


Franklin also noted that there were plans for a time capsule and a '50s style sock hop dance.


“We plan on having previous principals and assistants by for a drop-in the first week in March,” he said of another event to celebrate the school. “We will also have a 'museum' set up with Belvedere artifacts for students to see.”


Scott Rodgers is the news editor at the North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since January 2013 after previously working at the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter @NAStarRodgers.


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