By Katie Fallon
At E. Rivers Elementary School, changes over the last 90 years have included more than just an increased faculty and student body.
While the number of teachers has increased from two to almost 50 and students from 60 to approximately 400 in kindergarten through fifth grade, the school is looking to recognize more than just the statistical changes.
On April 21, the school will host a 90th anniversary celebration to commemorate its opening in the fall of 1917. The event, the location of which is still being finalized, will include live entertainment with a string quartet as well as the showing of a DVD that will feature anecdotes from former students and historical photos.
Event co-chair Cynthia Ziegler said the celebration will also feature a barbeque and silent auction. Benefits from the auction will go toward the Friends of E. Rivers Foundation, which supports improvements at the school to benefit both academic programs and students.
Co-chair Ann DuPre, a former E. Rivers PTA president, said the school decided to mark the milestone anniversary in style after the success of a similar celebration for the 75th anniversary in 1992.
“It was so well attended,” DuPre said. “We felt like the time was right.”
In addition, DuPre said the anniversary will also help mark the efforts of the Friend of E. Rivers Foundation, of which she is the board chairman. In three years, the foundation has collected about $95,000 to support long-term programs to benefit the school and students.
Anniversary organizers are banking the success of the celebration on the large amount of alumni who still live in the area or have an interest in the E. Rivers community. DuPre said the school has a database of roughly 1,500 alumni who still keep in touch with the school in some capacity. A majority of the alumni in the database, she said, attended the school prior to the 1980’s.
“It is quite large,” DuPre said of the database. “It goes way back.”
With the wealth of alumni, organizers are hoping the memories will continue to pour in.
“We’re looking for photos, yearbooks and any sort of anecdotes,” Ziegler said. “We love to hear the stories. We love to hear the friendships.”
DuPre said planning for the event has been a very nostalgic exercise, as she hopes attending the celebration will be for alumni.
“It’s going to be like a reunion,” DuPre said. “The school has sort of showed the winds of change. The fact the school is still here is a testament.”
Indeed, the presence of E. Rivers does hold a distinction. Part of the Atlanta Public Schools district, E. Rivers is the oldest continuing public elementary school in the city.
Originally named Peachtree Heights School, the school is now named after Eretus Rivers, an executor for the man who donated the land on which the school was initially built. Rivers himself then donated land for an athletic filed in 1925 and in 1926, the school was renamed in his honor.
Though the celebration will be happening off-site, the school facility will share in the anniversary action. An archive exhibit will be displayed at the school in the weeks preceding the party and students will also be treated to an assembly with a skit from the PTA as well as meetings with alumni and video clips about the school’s history.
Teaching current E. Rivers students their history is another benefit of the anniversary efforts.
“They’re part of a longstanding legacy,” DuPre said. “We’d just like for them to get a glimpse of the appreciation for the school.”
On the night of the April 21st party, the school will also provide tours to alumni, some of whom may pre-date the reconstruction of the school after a 1948 fire destroyed the original building. That devastating fire was started after a janitor used a blow torch to try to get rid of a wasp’s nest. Nobody was hurt in the fire.
Since the school’s 1950 remodel, technological improvements have been made in the classrooms, administrative offices, gym, media center, cafeteria and auditorium.
In recent years, E. Rivers alumni have also come together to help build the school’s “Field of Dreams. The 2001 effort was a culmination of financial contributions made by the E. Rivers community as well as local business and other local schools. The Field of Dreams includes sports fields, a track, basketball courts and a playground.
E. Rivers alumni or family members who would like to share their memories or lend memorabilia for the event can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive further instructions.