Trip Elementary School Assistant Principal Virin Vedder walks around about 900 bricks dedicated earlier this school year to students and staff who opened the school in 2008. The students who were in kindergarten that year are now fifth-graders, the first class to spend all six years at the school. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
GRAYSON — Six years after she led the opening of Trip Elementary, Marci Sledge has plenty of memories from the first school where she was a principal.
Now there’s a physical representation to trigger those thoughts.
Earlier this school year, Trip Elementary administrators and teachers dedicated a display of about 900 bricks outside the front door of the school as a way to honor the charter class, teachers and staff that opened the building in 2008.
“When I visit, I will read the names on those bricks and remember the funny stories, the hard work, the good people that made Trip what it is today,” said Sledge, who left Trip in May to become the principal at Pinckneyville Middle.
The idea for the bricks came from Assistant Principal Virin Vedder who brainstormed it with a landscape designer as a way to depict staff “metaphorically surrounding students working together on this very important mission, which is education.”
Vedder glanced up at the circle design on the facade above the front door to the school, and the idea was born.
The school is in its sixth year of operation, and Vedder said the vast majority of the 80 staff members who helped open the school remain. About 750 students were there when the school opened, and the kindergarteners in 2008 are now fifth-graders.
“Any time you open a new school it’s hard work,” Vedder said. “It reflects the dedication and devotion to that charter year staff and students who made this building become what it is now, and what we are continuing to enhance every year, but you have to have a start. I think it’s a great way for us to give a tribute for those people who did put in that hard work and effort in what has become a great Trip. This is a metaphor for the beginning of our Trip.”
The opening of a school is difficult for everyone, Sledge said, because new routines and traditions have to be established. Students often move from a previous school without friends, and teachers and staff also have new colleagues and a new way of operating.
Sledge said her years at Trip are a proud chapter in her life, and she said the people involved were instrumental in creating a culture that’s important to preserve.
“What I’m proud of is the wonderful people associated with it,” she said. “I’m proud of the students who rose to our expectations year after year; the parents who believed in our school and supported us; and the wonderful teachers and support staff who are genuinely great people who do what it takes every day to do the right thing for kids.”
Sledge said some of the initial ideas were to have something that could be durable and not fade over time, but also something that charter students and staff could visit.
In the five years since the charter pathway project was announced, the school received donations from Parent Teacher Association, Student Council and local businesses. Parents also purchased bricks in the beginning. Vedder said the businesses who constructed the project also donated resources. And the long-term goal is to cement permanent benches and more extensive landscaping around it.
Late last school year, the project received enough money to become a reality, just in time for the charter class to enter fifth grade and be honored and recognized.
“This is our tribute to them,” Vedder said. “This represents that vision and intention.”