Midlands elementary school turns 100

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – Lexington Elementary School is celebrating a milestone this Friday turning 100 years-old on its 100th day of school.

Students, teachers and community members planned to honor the school's 100th birthday with a party Friday morning, but beforehand school officials took WIS on a trip back through the school's history.

"In 1912 the original school was built up the hill," said Edie Beaver, the secretary at Lexington Elementary. "It's been torn down now, but up there they had other buildings that were added to it as the school grew."

Beaver says for many years the school served students of all grade levels. "When it started in 1912, there were only 12 students in the Senior class," said Beaver.

Now there are 702 students at the school grades Kindergarten through fifth, and they're all taking a trip back in time in honor of the 100th year celebration.

"The first school lunches were served in March of 1934 in grades one through 11," read 5th Grader Gracen Torbett from a note card set up in the school's '100 year museum.' The card also says lunch then was soup and crackers and was just 5 cents a week. "Lunches today cost 2.50 cents [a day] and instead of trays like these we have Styrofoam trays that are recyclable," added Gracen.

In the school's classroom museum, you'll find evidence of all kinds of other changes like the end of chalkboards and typewriters. Just ask 5th grader Preston Correll what happened to the library's card catalogues. "Probably the difference? Computers 'Boom' tell you where it is," said Preston, referencing the school's online book database. Preston says he knows how card catalogues work, but adds it would probably take hours to use them.

While technology, classrooms and even the building has changed, the heart of the school has not. "It's important to recognize that it all started right here," said Jim Hamby, principal at LES. "The ground roots of education in this community occurred on this campus."

Those roots have been watered by generation after generation. "We have so much loyalty to our school, and we're just so excited over all of this," added Beaver.

Retired teacher Harriett Easler is among the excited. She's taught for four decades of the school's 100 years. "The 100th birthday, personally, it's just magnificent," said Easler.

Easler still substitutes in Kindergarten classrooms at the school, but she started teaching at LES in 1971.  "At that particular time it was the only elementary school in Lexington District One, and it was the largest [elementary] school in the state, I believe," said Easler.

Easler taught kindergarten for more than 35 years, retired in 2006 and came back as a teacher's assistant and then a substitute. "My love was here, and I never wanted to move," she said. "I just loved watching the students that I had grow grade by grade."

Easler's love for teaching reached students like Jamie Metts Hudson early on. Hudson was in Mrs. Easler's Kindergarten class in the late 80s. "We did an Easter Parade back then," said Hudson, recalling some of her favorite memories. "We made Easter bonnets that we wore on the school stage and marched around to music."

Now more than two decades later, Hudson is a first grade teacher at Lexington Elementary School. "It's really neat," said Hudson. "I actually got to teach with Mrs. Easler. I taught kindergarten a few years ago, before she retired so we actually taught on the same team."

Hudson says her mom, grandmother and great-grandmother all attended Lexington schools. She marked the fourth generation, and now there's a fifth.  "We were excited when Bella started here last year in kindergarten," said Hudson, as she smiled at her daughter.

As Bella and her mom celebrate the past, present and future at Lexington Elementary, they share this wish, "Happy Birthday Lexington Elementary School!"

From all of us here at WIS, Happy Birthday Lexington Elementary School!

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