Colony Oak School classes often took place at Stouffer Park 25 years ago when teachers would take their students away from the ongoing construction and the dangers of cranes lifting pipes and the building around the new campus. Two school buses would ferry the students down Murphy Road over a mile to the park with its stands of oak trees and its riparian woodlands along the Stanislaus River where they would spend most of their school days.
Longtime yard duty supervisor Karen Gay said the staff was trying to keep the 169 students in three class levels safe from the construction.
Parents, however, didn’t understand, and carried picket signs in front of the campus demanding the school to be closed for the duration of the construction for the protection of their children. The following year a fourth class level was added with another each of the following years until Colony had grown to become at K-8 elementary school.
The small rural school has grown to over 400 students where junior high level students mix with the younger children as mentors and role models in their education. “That was silly of them,” she said of the picketing.
We even had porta-potties for the kids over at Stouffer,” she added. “It worked well — Mr. Prewitt was a great leader and always put the children first.” It was Gay who actually filled the school’s time capsule that is being opened tonight at the school — a highlight of the open house that includes a student talent show. Teachers are expected to read aloud the contents of the capsule including Billie Verdegaal’s third graders who wrote of expecting men flying with almost magical power packs on their backs. “It was very exciting being part of a new school and experiencing how we all worked together. We all had a closeness because of the things we had to do plus overcoming all the obstacles we had,” Gay said.
Gay remembers when her son Jefferey was only 17 days old and Mr. Prewitt would let her do yard duty with the baby in a cloth carry-on pouch over her chest. When he was older the pouch was on her back. She remembered kids laughing at her and she didn’t know why. She had been walking through lines of students going to class and was unaware that Jefferey had been patting those he could reach on their heads.
Gay eventually opened a trophy shop in downtown Ripon where many of those first students had been coming through the door lately asking when the time capsule was going to be opened. She said that she hadn’t remembered the date, where it had been buried or exactly what it contained, but they knew where the four-inch diameter time capsule was laid. She has been trying to remember the name of the dad who built the capsule 25 years ago hoping he will be at tonight’s event. As for Jefferey, now 26, he was married last Saturday to Jessica LaVoie in Manteca’s Chez Sheri at the 18-hole golf course on Union Road.
What she remembers best from the wedding is the “mother-son” dance at the reception. It seemed like just yesterday that he was on yard duty with her at Colony Oak. Colony Oak School is celebrating its 25th anniversary tonight.
The event will also serve as an opportunity for the school district to share with parents and the community the upcoming major makeover for the Colony Oak campus that will convert it into a Science Technology Engineering and mathematics school.
The open house is from 5:45 to 8 p.m., with classrooms open from 5:45 to 6:30 p.m. The talent show is from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the multi-purpose room followed by the opening of the time capsule.