LAURINBURG — As they released balloons in the school’s colors of black, white, and blue, the students of Washington Park Elementary School shouted loudly enough to be heard from Sycamore Lane, where the majority of them will attend school this fall.
Washington Park was built in 1951, and has been both an elementary and a middle school. But with Monday’s vote by the Scotland County Board of Education, it will cease to serve as a school at the end of the current school year.
“As with all things, many changes have occurred throughout the years: changes in leadership and changes in the population that we serve,” Principal Pam Lewis said on Wednesday. “Today our number of students is near 400, and we are growing and still continuing to grow. As a result, it is time for us to move on up.”
After members of each class placed memorabilia from their time at Pate-Gardner in a time capsule, staff and student representatives released balloons containing flower seeds, which within moments drifted to the east and out of sight.
The time capsule, to be opened on June 10, 2025 at Sycamore Lane, will carry items with it from a Panther pride paw to a farewell card to the tug-of-war trophy, added by fourth grader Kevin Marshall, that embodies something of Washington Park’s spirit.
“We have done our best this year and we all pulled together,” he said.
The school’s kindergartners, in the hope that students in a decade enjoy learning to read and play as much as they have, contributed a set of posters, and second-grader Zoey Bowman added a pink flamingo — posted outside, like many Washington Park students in the mobile classrooms that first sparked the school system’s redistricting debate.
“Having a classroom outside in a trailer is a challenge,” she said candidly. “When it rains, we get wet, when it gets icy we slip. However, we have embraced our location and have our own community outside the school building.”
To an uproar of laughter from the students and teachers assembled, cafeteria manager and Washington Park alumna Audrey Mason proffered a hairnet.
“Being the cafeteria staff, we would like to put something in the capsule,” she said. “By the way, I think I’m the oldest one out here that went to this school. I went to school in 1960.”
In an upbeat manner, Lewis predicted a slew of positive outcomes from the school’s move to Sycamore Lane, where Washington Park’s students will be reassigned along with those currently attending Pate-Gardner in Gibson.
“We’ll be able to make new friends, we’ll have more staff members, more volunteers, greater opportunities and ideas as two schools merge as one,” she said. “However, we certainly don’t want to forget our school building and the great memories that we’ve had here.”
The school system will hold a closing ceremony at Washington Park at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.