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When it was announced that cake would be served to note the school’s birthday, students were visibly excited. (Brendan Clogston Photo)

Half century - Allenstown Elementary School marks 50th year

You might say they partied like it’s 1962.

Students, teachers, family and alumni gathered in the Allenstown Elementary School gym Friday, Dec. 21, to celebrate half a century of history for the school’s 50th birthday.

Former and current teachers, students, community members, alumni and individuals from the Allenstown Historical Society joined in a party with a slide show, display of artifacts and birthday cake.

Originally, Allenstown started out having two school districts. District 1 had a school on the main road and District 2 was set along Podunk Road and had no schoolhouse until 1840. If you lived in District 2, times were tough, and every year residents had to find a place to hold school until the schoolhouse was eventually built.

First opened in 1962, Allenstown Elementary School housed 91 students with only five teachers. At that time, it was a one-story building that did not offer a library or gym. It wasn’t until 10 years later, when the second floor was built, that additional classrooms and learning environments were added. Currently there are 276 students from pre-K to fifth grade, with 20 teachers.

As part of the celebration, a slide show presented by educational assistant Dawn Labrecque showed class pictures throughout the school’s history.

“It was certainly fun to watch retired staff enter the building today,” said special education coordinator Anthony Blinn. Local historians Claudette and Armand Verville acquired photographs and former school mementos to display around the gym. They also answered any questions that the children had.

The 50-year celebration created excitement and interest among the students, teachers said. Although, the kids did not necessarily understand the historic nature of the event, they were excited by the birthday celebration aspect.

“I think that the kids didn’t really understand the concept of 50 years until today, when they were able to see pictures of some of the teachers they have and see some of that history,” said Principal Lynn Allen. “It’s a real credit to the town and its educators that you can look back and recognize so many faces and they’re still here. The teachers stuck around, they stuck it out.”

Current teachers like Gay Zibel, who has worked at Allenstown Elementary School for more than 30 years, and Jane Thul, who has spent 28 years of her teaching career at Allenstown Elementary School, have much to tell about the school’s history.

“I have seen many changes!” said Thul. “When I first started at AES, I had more than 30 students in my fourth-grade classroom. The school was crowded and two of the fifth grades shared what is now the library separated only by bookshelves. Despite those constraints, we gave the kids a strong educational foundation and were constantly examining our curriculum. Each teacher was on a curriculum team (math, language arts, science, social studies) and we were constantly working on keeping up to date with what we needed to teach. Technology came in slowly over the years and now is integral in every classroom.”

Allenstown Elementary School has come a long way, from using blackboards and mimeograph sheets to now having interactive white boards and the use of laptop computers. More recently, the school now offers preschool classes and has been acknowledged for having two school psychologists, Kasey Filion and Nan Frantz, who were recognized as New Hampshire School Psychologists of the Year. Last year, the school reached its district target of 80 percent proficiency in math and celebrated by lighting wish lanterns. One thing that has remained constant is the basic design of keeping up with educational changes.

Thul said many teachers that have stay in Allenstown for years.

“We have a family spirit that is encouraging and supportive of not only the students, but of each other,” she said. “We are close friends in and out of school. The building has changed a bit, the staff has changed a bit, but the spirit in Allenstown has been a constant over the years.”

The school’s motto is “Committed to graduating all of its students prepared for success as effective communicators; problem solvers; community contributors; and lifelong, self-directed learners.”

This was the first public school building in Allenstown. It was built in the 1870s on School Street. The undated photo shows students at the school building. It later became Allenstown’s town hall and police station. Now it houses just the town offices. (Photo courtesy of the Allenstown Historical Association)

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