Park Avenue to celebrate 50 years of education

NANAIMO: Hundreds to gather to remember the last 50 years of Park Avenue School.

This weekend, hundreds of past and present students and staff of Park Avenue Community School will gather for a special event 50 years in the making.

On Friday and Saturday (Oct. 26-27), the school is hosting its 50-year anniversary celebration and everyone is invited.

“To me it’s a reunion,” said Brian Pettit, former principal and teacher. “A lot of people have gone through this school.”

The fun will begin Friday morning with a pancake breakfast for current students and their families and guests, who will share their stories in the classrooms. At recess, Pettit will introduce some Australian games he used to play with school children back in the 1960s, ’80s and ’90s. The day will finish off with a sports challenge between current students and alumni.

On Saturday, the school’s gym will open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to the general public, and there will be an open house with guided tours, speeches, a slide show and entertainment. For $5, attendees can take part in lunch.

There will also be sticky notes for attendees to write their memories of the school down on paper.

The school’s current principal, Karina Younk, said the planning committee has been meeting about once a month for about a year.

“What’s been rich for me is seeing how long some people have invested their time into Park Avenue,” Younk said. “A lot of teachers have been here for over 20 years.”

To mark the occasion, the committee  compiled a 130-page ‘Book of Memories’, which contains messages and memories from former staff and students. Some of the  memorable moments over the years include parades, musical performances and a visit from Canadian basketball star Eli Pasquale.

“There was huge pride in how strong the basketball team used to be at Park Avenue School,” Younk said.

Pettit, a past president of the Nanaimo Historical Society, said the book will contain interviews with former principals of the school and some history of the area. There will be copies available for purchase during the open house.

Prior to its opening in 1962, the Little Red Schoolhouse, a primary school, operated on the same lot. Since that time, Park Avenue has undergone major renovations and changes.