- Associated Press - Monday, November 23, 2015

MORTON, Ill. (AP) - SpaghettiOs and Pop-Tarts were introduced to the world in 1965. So was Lincoln Elementary School.

Lincoln’s 50th anniversary was celebrated earlier this month at an open house that had plenty of food for thought. Memories, memorabilia, nostalgia and history were on the menu.

“I couldn’t believe it had been 50 years since the school opened. Then I did the math,” said Wayne Sutter, Lincoln’s first principal, during a ceremony in the school’s gymnasium.

Sutter said the first year presented challenges for students and staff. Tables and chairs were brought in before desks arrived and the gym floor had to be wiped down constantly.

Lincoln has had only five principals during its half century of existence and three were at the open house. Sutter served from 1965 to 1968 before being named assistant superintendent of District 644, which became part of District 709 in 1970.

Former Principal Jolyon Webb (1968-1991) and current Principal Julie Albers (2013-present) attended the open house. Ex-principals Al Lacrocco (1991-2004) and Sheila Taylor (2004-2013) were absent.

Abraham Lincoln - the school’s namesake - stopped by, too. Lincoln has grown taller through the years. He was portrayed Thursday by 6-foot-9 former Morton High School basketball star Derek Grimm.

Lincoln School was built on 11 acres at 100 S. Nebraska Ave., after voters passed a referendum in April 1964. Enrollment was 288 in its first year and there were 12 teachers.

The first day of classes was Sept. 1, 1965. Two years later, enrollment was 575 and the school already had undergone an expansion project approved by voters in January 1966 that added 14 classrooms.

Webb, a sixth-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary School, was named principal in 1968 after Sutter’s promotion and he stayed for 23 years before being named principal at Grundy Elementary School.

Shirley Brown, Sutter’s daughter, taught at Lincoln from 1987 to 2009.

She said Thursday she remembers playing in the Lincoln gym with her siblings on Saturdays when her father came in to work.

“My dad brought us to school to give our mom a break,” Brown said. “We loved coming there.”

Her children attended Lincoln and now her grandson is in kindergarten at the school.

Memorabilia including newspaper stories, minutes from Lincoln PTA meetings from September 1971 to March 1973 and a Jan. 15, 1965 letter from Donna Crumrine suggesting the new school be named for the 16th U.S. President were in the gym.

Crumrine, who attended the open house, won $10 in a contest to name the school.

Four classrooms were added to Lincoln in 2012, the school’s first expansion since 1967.

With 512 students, 29 teachers and 32 paraprofessionals filling every available space this year at Lincoln, the District 709 School Board wants to add three classrooms and build a 7,000-square-foot gym at the school.

The current gym is 3,530 square feet and also is used as a cafeteria. An empty classroom is being utilized for physical education classes so the school can adhere to the state mandate of daily P.E.

The gym was the site of perhaps Lincoln’s proudest moment in 2013 when the school celebrated being named a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Source: Peoria Journal Star, https://bit.ly/1klWH4Z

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Information from: Journal Star, https://pjstar.com

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