Chowchilla Elementary School District marks centennial

Jack Schnoor spent Monday afternoon reminiscing with his former classmates during Chowchilla Elementary School District’s 100 year celebration.

Schnoor, 81, attended classes when the district consisted of just a grammar school back in the 1930s. He has many fond memories of his younger days on campus. “I always thought it was a beautiful place to go to school,” Schnoor recalled. “I rode the bus everyday.”

Schnoor was one of many who gathered Monday at the district’s 355 N. Fifth St. headquarters to recognize the anniversary. Originally known as Chowchilla Grammar School, the first classes were held in 1913 at the First Presbyterian Church until construction of the permanent site was completed, according to school officials. The Chowchilla Elementary School District now consists of five schools and more than 2,000 students.

Monday’s celebration was the culmination of a year-long project, said Charles Martin, the district’s superintendent. “I think we had a really positive reaction from the community,” he said. “Everyone was excited to celebrate all the wonderful things that were happening in the district. I think it was great bringing back great memories people had when they attended the school.”

Local dignitaries were invited to give special recognition to the district, including Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, R-Madera and Mayor Dennis Haworth.

To make the celebration feel special, Martin said organizers made sure to capture the history and the timeline of important moments throughout the growth of the district. “There was no real history memorialized, so to say, it was just random pieces all over the place, trying to put it together all in one place,” Martin said. “We used a lot of different resources.”

Community members, along with former and current students and teachers, were invited to take a tour of the district after the tribute was held to see memorabilia from Chowchilla’s schools. Yearbooks, plaques and old photos were displayed in a conference room for the public to view. Susan House, yearbook adviser for Wilson Middle School, displayed memorabilia from each decade Wilson has been in existence.

House said uncovering the history and personal memories has been the most exciting part about planning the celebration. “It’s been a blessing,” she said. “It’s so great to collect these memories before we lose the people we know who have them.”

Linda Russell-Scheet, assistant superintendent, said the celebration represents Chowchilla well. “It’s nice that Chowchilla is such a tight-knit community still, that has so many parents involved,” she said. “So having a celebration like this, you know you’re going to get a lot of community involved.”

As for the future of the school district, Russell-Scheet said the direction the school is going looks good. “We actually weathered the financial storm really well because we have a fiscally conservative board and district,” she said. “So where other people had to increase class size, we didn’t. Where other districts had to layoff staff, we didn’t. So it’s exciting to still be kind of running a good race.”

Martin said the district is a progressive one and support from the school board, staff and community members helps. “We have a very professional staff, everyone is really focused on the kids,” Martin added. “Whenever you put kids as your priority, you can never go wrong.”

The K-8 school district consists of Stephens Elementary, Merle L. Fuller Elementary, Ronald Reagan Elementary, Fairmead Elementary and Wilson Middle School.