NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - At 100, she's holding up strong.
That's how Principal Georgette Gonzalez Lugo described Roosevelt Elementary School as students, parents, faculty, and staff celebrated the school's 100th birthday on Wednesday.
There was festive music, streamers, balloons, singing, and dancing in the courtyard to mark the occasion. There was also a spaghetti and meatball dinner and plenty of dessert choices.
Considering the cornerstone of Roosevelt School was laid in 1919, it's seen a lot of history. Untold thousands of students have come, studied and gone out in the world.
The idea that the school had been a silent witness to changes in politics, technology, language - everything - during its 100-year span was incorporated into the curriculum.
"They broke off into groups of 10 years and each class had to do the history of one topic," said Julie Van Hook, a first-grade teacher. "Our subject was games. My class looked at the history of games from 1950 to 1960. We looked Battleship, all the others. They were able to use their technology, their laptops, and do the research on Google. To incorporate the technology into the project was really cool, too."
In an exercise to show the students just how much even the inside of a classroom has changed, the staff created a mock 1919 classroom inside a trailer in the courtyard. No iPhones or Instagram here, just old-time phones and vintage chalkboards.
Asia Lopez said she and her fellow students enjoyed learning about what school was like 100 years ago. But all things being equal, they would rather stay in the present.
"I would miss the technology the most," she said.
Being able to use the building's 100th birthday as a teachable moment impressed Superintendent of Schools Aubrey Johnson.
"That was (Principal Gonzalez Lugo's) idea," he said. "They brought the idea to us and we told her to just run with that. Part of the conversation was that if we teach the students about the past, they'll have a greater awareness of what choices to make."
Gonzalez Lopez isn't just teaching the children the value of learning from the past, she's a living, breathing part of its history as the first Latina and first woman principal.
She said the students and staff have been celebrating the school's centennial since January. Over the recent months, there have been carnivals, dances and other events.
But keeping the school going strong takes work. She said they've recently painted the school and refurbished the cafeteria. There are plans to add air conditioning to the third floor and fix up the bathrooms.
"She is going strong," Gonzalez Lugo said. "She'll probably go strong for another 100 years."