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On a bright, sunny and crisp afternoon, Oakton Elementary School, 436 Ridge Ave., celebrated its Centennial anniversary. The auditorium was standing room only as current and former students, their families, community members, current and former staff, administrators, and dedicated parent volunteers came together to celebrate the centennial of one of the oldest schools in Evanston.
Oakton, Past and Present
During the program, the stunning mural based on the medieval epic poem “The Song of Roland” by Carl Scheffler, restored in 2007, provided a beautiful backdrop to the performances by Oakton students of “Let’s All Grow Together,” under the direction of Oakton music teacher Monica Blacconeri.
The Oakton School “Memories” video brought cheers and applause throughout its showing. Next were welcoming remarks by Principal Churchill Daniels and Dr. Paul Goren, District 65 Superintendent of Schools. Dr. Goren’s three children attended Oakton School and he enjoyed sharing with the audience what keepsakes they still had in their possession. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, congratulated the school community on this 100th anniversary.
Designed by Chicago architect and urban planner Dwight H. Perkins, the school opened its doors on Sept. 14, 1914, with 100 students attending the school. Today, more than 400 students are enrolled. Mr. Perkins was part of a group of progressive Chicago architects known as the Chicago School or the Prairie School. He improved school design with wider hallways and stairwells and maximizing the amount of natural light in classrooms.
Centennial Mosaic Dedication
The creative process was documented in a video shown before Mr. Daniels invited the audience to walk outside to the main entrance for the Oakton Centennial Mosaic Project, “Together We Grow,” dedication. Mr. Daniels, Marge Morris (past PTA president) and Mirtes Zwierzynski spoke briefly and then the principal and the visual artist cut the ribbon together. Third through fifth grade students designed and constructed these porcelain and glass mosaics under the supervision of visual artist and muralist, Ms. Zwierzynski, whose works can be seen in North and South America and Europe. She is a member of CPAG (Chicago Public Art Group) and creates and implements public art programs focused on urban development and education, according to its website. Oakton art teacher Marisa Hernandez and all of the staff, teachers, parents and community members worked very hard on this project.
Walking along the hallways during one of the tours, one sees original woodwork, tile inlays and murals,some of which were created by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. There is a sense of pride in this K-5 building, its historic architecture, its artwork and its dedicated school community.
Happy 100th Birthday, Oakton School.