For more than half a century, Bel-Aire Elementary School has been molding young minds.
The school recently celebrated its 65th anniversary with a Sunday celebration inviting alumni and current students to reminisce and to see just how far the school has come over the past 65 years and where it’s headed for the future.
Bel-Aire Principal April Norris, recently spoke with The News about the school’s milestone birthday, its history and what is in store for school’s future.
The school’s history
According to Norris, the school opened Jan. 19, 1953.
Charles Thomas was principal from 1953-1977 followed by Dr. Jim Waters who served from 1977-2003. Donna Rhoton served as the building’s top administrator from 2003-2014 before Norris took over the position in the summer of 2014.
Norris said she feels honored to be a part of this group of principals.
“I think it is very special for a school to have had only four principals in 65 years,” she said. “I know I followed three great principals, and that is somewhat intimidating. I hope to serve well and continue the legacy of Bel-Aire for many more years. It truly is a great place to BEE.”
A ‘bee’utiful success
Norris added that in its 65 years, the school has become a special place because of the faculty and staff’s ability to connect with students.
“I feel that Bel-Aire is a wonderful school because of the caring faculty and staff who have always worked to build relationships with the students and ensure they are successful,” she said. “Bel-Aire has a rich history, and the community is very supportive of our efforts. Faculty and staff from the past and present are some of the most caring and giving people I know. They make the school what it is, and I appreciate the hard work done for our bees.”
She also credited the school’s PTO for helping to organize events over the years to benefit the school and the community.
“Our school also has a long-standing, successful PTO,” Norris said. “The PTO has successfully organized a school walk-a-thon for many years as the only school fundraiser. This event is always held close to the date of 9/11 and honors our emergency responders. This year the walk-a-thon is 9/14. The emergency responders walk the first lap and have always been supportive and helpful at our school. This tradition is an extraordinary event allowing the community and students to show our appreciation.”
In celebrating the school’s recent anniversary and welcoming past and current students, Norris said she got an even better view of just how special Bel-Aire school is, to both her personally and as a part of the fabric of the community.
“When interviewing for this job, Dr. (Greg) Carter said Bel-Aire would remind me of Mayberry,” she said. “I now understand what he meant by that because everyone is like a family. The history, the friendships and the care for all who enter the building are evident. I love meeting people in the community who share stories about their time as a Bel-Aire bee. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this school and hope everyone had a great time reminiscing and sharing memories.”