Episcopal Day Marks 50 Years
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Episcopal Day School in Southern Pines has changed since it opened 50 years ago, but it has never forsaken its roots and its mission.
The elementary school opened its doors in 1959 at Emmanuel Episcopal Church. Since then, it has grown to accommodate 198 students from age 3 through fifth grade. Despite that growth, the school still adheres to its historic roots and its Christian mission.
In fact, that mission underlies everything the school does, according to Headmaster Jay St. John.
“There is an institutional memory here about how the school was years and years ago,” Jay St. John said, “and that’s important.”
The school has been celebrating its golden anniversary all year.
St. John, who has worked in a variety of schools, said this is the first one he has been at that has this particular range of age groups. That allows for a focus on character development and mentoring that is a hallmark of the school. Older students are paired with younger students as their “buddies.”
One of the school’s most recognizable features is its longtime faculty, which is as iconic as the green T-shirts students wear on field trips.
Carolyn Hatcher came to Episcopal Day School (EDS) in 1979, teaching 3- and 4-year-olds and music throughout her tenure. Now retired, she serves on the school’s Board of Trustees.
“It’s so nice for me to see the students that I had and how they’ve grown up and all the successes they’ve had,” she said. “I’m just so proud to be a part of this school.”
Sarah McVerry, a first-grade teacher, credits the strong bond the teachers have with one another for making the school so special. She said they are quick to share their ideas with one another and enjoy doing so.
The small size of the school creates a nurturing, family atmosphere. Usually when one student enrolls in preschool, the teachers get to know their younger siblings before they even start school, McVerry said.
“People just enjoy that moment,” McVerry said. “It’s just like a little slice of Americana almost.”
Cynthia Creque, a pre-kindergarten teacher, said the stability of the faculty allows for long-established classroom traditions to continue and be passed on from year to year. The Awesome Autumn festival, May Day and International Day are a few of the events that have become part of the EDS vernacular.
“All those things that we start up as teachers because we’re here so long really become a tradition,” she said.
The anniversary celebration began last fall with a church service, which involved students talking about the school. A reception with a slide show that focused on the many years of EDS followed. It included photos from past events over the decades. A number of alumni came back to the school to participate in the event.
“We talked about the 50 years and what it meant to the Sandhills,” St. John said, “because we have so many students that have gone through here that have distinguished themselves in a number of areas.”
Olivia Webb, the school’s director of alumni relations, said many of the alums who attended the event have established new connections with the school, a unique characteristic. Many have children at the school now.
“When you start looking at separating alums from other parts of the family, you realize how interconnected everyone is,” she said.
The school continued the celebration with its annual auction, which, despite the economy, raised more money than its goal. It also put on its 32nd Candlelight Tour of Homes and is working on its annual fund appeal.
Moving forward for the next 50 years, the Board of Trustees has created a strategic plan that focuses on a wide range of efforts, from improving technology to encouraging community service among its students.
Despite calls by some to expand the school up to eighth grade, St. John said the school’s small size gives it its charm. It allows everyone at the school to know everyone else — creating a built-in family for life.
Andrew Hasty, an EDS alumnus, said his years at the school were among the best of his life. He attended the school from pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, “graduating” in 1996.
“When I look back on the six years I spent as an Episcopal Day School student, I think about the friendships I made that have lasted to this day,” he said. “Memories of chapel and Father Hank [Franklin] come to mind as well. My days at EDS greatly influenced my childhood.”
Contact John Krahnert III by at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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