Peachtree Elementary marks 50 years

Students, teachers and staff at Peachtree Elementary in Peachtree Corners celebrated 50 years of education with cupcakes, '70s music and bubble parades.

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Students, teachers and staff at Peachtree Elementary in Peachtree Corners celebrated 50 years of education with cupcakes, '70s music and bubble parades.

The almost 800 students at Peachtree Elementary arrived at school recently to find a major celebration underway. While it may have been tough for tykes to grasp the concept of a 50-year anniversary mark, they were delighted to spend a day partying in honor of the milestone.

“Well, they knew it was a 50th anniversary and that it was all about the ‘70s, but a lot of them just saw it as a big birthday party,” said Principal Gretchen Runaldue.

The event looked a bit different from what Runaldue and her staff imaged when they began planning a year ago.

“We hoped we could allow people into the building, but without knowing, we had different versions in place,” said Runaldue. “Eventually, we made it student-centered. It was all about the children and the anniversary – the COVID version.”

The day included an opening address by former Georgia Representative and one-time assistant superintendent of the district Brooks Coleman, who opened the school in January 1972. Former principals, teachers and alumni were virtually on hand to read aloud to students. Those sessions tied into the anniversary’s “Read 50 for the 50th” book challenge that had each grade working to complete 50 books in a month.

“After the pandemic, one of our priorities is to get books in the hands of our children again,” said Runaldue. “When you’re in kindergarten, a book can be a few pages with pictures. But we also had students reading chapter books. And almost 100% of them completed the challenge.”

The students celebrated with bubble parties at recess, cupcakes at lunch and dance breaks with ‘70s music throughout the day. They also got history lessons tied to the decade.

“We decided to embrace some of the things that marked the ‘70s, like talking about gas prices and having students dress up in tie-dyed clothes,” said Runaldue.

But the most important takeaway from the day, she added, was highlighting the close connection Peachtree Elementary has with the community.

“This is my community,” said Runaldue, a Norcross High graduate who began teaching at Peachtree as a sub in 2000 before becoming a fourth-grade teacher and eventually principal. “Once you walk through the doors, you don’t want to leave – and I’m not the only one who feels that way. Many community members work here. Our retirees donated a bench out front. It’s exciting to know that the commitment everyone has to children and excellence is still here.”

As the buses and cars pulled out at the end of the day, the loud speakers blasted the Jackson Five’s “ABC.”

“It was a day of learning,” said Runaldue, “and a lot of fun for our 50th birthday.”

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