Centennial events planned for Crafton Elementary School

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Crafton is a small community, said Crafton Elementary School principal Jacie Maslyk, "and people are buzzing."

She was referring to the centennial celebration of the red brick building that began its century as Crafton High School and has been an elementary school since the 1970s.

The celebration will include an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the school at Crafton Boulevard and Noble Avenue. The Carlynton High School marching band will perform, as will cheerleaders and students from various musical groups, including the show band. Crafton is part of the Carlynton School District, along with Carnegie and Rosslyn Farms.

The public can tour the school to see displays of memorabilia as well as projects and presentations made and displayed by students in every classroom.

"We have every yearbook ever published," Ms. Maslyk said. "People can look at them in the library."

She added that the display "will also be a history lesson" for the 350 elementary students.

Before the public events begin, fifth- and sixth-grade students will serve lunch to military veterans who attended the school at an invitation-only event.

The Tudor-style, three-story building was erected in 1913, according to the brass plaque in the front lobby. The high school opened in 1914, with students adopting blue and gold as school colors and the cougar as their mascot.

The plaque names the board of directors: E.L. McGrew, A.B. Kiser, L.F. Wentz, A.D. Robb and D.T. Dowler. The architect was Press C. Dowler. Schutz, Schreiner & Clyde Co. were contractors.

The 100-year-old building has a second-floor auditorium with a raised stage, stained glass windows and 410 seats, including some on a balcony. Except for the first two rows, the wooden seats are as old as the building.

An addition built in 1979 contains five classrooms on the first floor.

The original 100-year-old portion has 15 classrooms, Ms. Maslyk said.

Judy Kueshner was one local resident who was excited to receive a notice of the celebration from school officials. She immediately volunteered to help.

Mrs. Kueshner and her husband, the late Tony Kueshner, attended Crafton High School, but that's not where they met.

She graduated with the Class of 1955, and he was president of the Class of 1948.

Mrs. Kueshner said she met her future husband while he was plastering the ceiling of her family's Barr Street house while working his way through Carnegie Tech, now Carnegie Mellon University. "It took him 12 years to get a degree in architecture," she added.

Mrs. Kueshner has lived in Crafton since she was in fourth grade, and when her three children went to Crafton public schools, she was PTA president. For more than 60 years, she has lived on Barr Street -- in three different houses.

The 1950s in Crafton "were the best times to be a teenager," she said.

"The war was over, the daddies were home and we walked everywhere, including home from school for lunch. Everybody knew each other, you went to the same movie theater, nobody locked their doors."

She is interested in local history and is a member of the Crafton Historical Society, which has a room at the local public library.

"I have about 45 years of school yearbooks," she said, "but the historical society has all of them, going back to 1922 when the first yearbook was produced."

The books, and Mrs. Kueshner, will be in the library for the open house, where she will share her knowledge about Crafton schools and the people who attended them.

She still keeps in touch with classmates.

"Fourteen of us have lunch every two months at a Kings Restaurant on Steubenville Pike. My class gets closer every year," she said.

School board member Joe Appel is using his skills as a professional photographer to help with the open house. He is taking close-up shots of architectural details that will be used in a scavenger hunt. Participants will get a stack of photographs and try to discover where in the building they were taken.

He and his wife, Emily Tipping, moved to Crafton in 2007 "largely because of the schools," said Mr. Appel, a Butler native.

Their daughter Phoebe is in sixth grade at Crafton Elementary and son Wyatt is in third grade.

Ms. Tipping is president of the PTA.

April Weitzel, president of Crafton council, said she loves "the culture of caring, nurturing and high achievement" that Crafton Elementary School provides for students, including her third-grade daughter, Sophia Magliocco.

"Everyone in the neighborhood is talking about the 100-year celebration," she said.

The big century benchmark is especially poignant, she said, "because this would have been the last year for this school."

Ms. Weitzel, Mr. Appel and Ms. Tipping were among the residents who participated in the successful Carlynton Save Our Schools campaign.

In February 2011, the school board voted 5-4 to close the district's elementary schools in Crafton and Carnegie.

Elected officials planned to build a new $26 million elementary school in Carnegie that would serve the entire district. Parents and taxpayers in Crafton and Rosslyn Farms, in particular, were irate.

Ultimately, incumbents up for re-election were voted out of office.

Candidates from Carlynton Save Our Schools campaign were elected and killed plans to close the existing elementary schools and build a new one.

neigh_west

Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-722-0087.


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