Olivenhain school celebration features stubborn time capsule


On Friday morning, Sept. 26, the atmosphere at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School was one of jubilation. This was the first “spirit” assembly for the new school year, but it was also a milestone marker, as this year the school has its 20th anniversary.

Students, staff, and parents had gathered in anticipation for the unearthing of a time capsule that was interred 20 years ago when the school was dedicated in the fall of 1994.

Buried in the front of the school, the capsule — a 200-pound water pipe donated by the Olivenhain Water District — proved a challenge to unearth.

Principal Beth Cameron, Superintendent Timothy Baird and Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Leighangela Brady, as well as Encinitas school board trustees Marla Strich, Carol Skiljan and Emily Andrade and the school’s first PTA president, Nancy Logan, looked on while school crossing guard Dana Johnson dug into the dirt to unearth the capsule.

Without mechanical means, Johnson, aided by school district maintenance staff and school custodian Rich Vallas, used collective manpower to lift the pipe from its watery hiding. Industrial tools would be needed to open it, and so the big reveal did not happen that morning.

But this did not dampen the atmosphere at the assembly. Teachers who had started at the school in 1994 stood on stage and sang, stomped and clapped along with the 600-plus students.

Stories were shared about how different school life was 20 years ago. Andrade, then school principal, told how the school once stood next to fields, land now filled with a housing development. On occasion, her announcement would come across the intercom: “Do not release the students for recess, there are cows on the playground!” which brought howls of laughter.

Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary was one of the first elementary schools in the nation to have computers in every classroom, about 150 of them in total. But the server could manage only 50 at a time. Everything was IBM, and overseas educators visited to see the marvel of this technology, recalled Andrade. Now every child has an Apple iPad.

In 1994, students were known as the Trailblazers, named for the Olivenhain farmers who first settled the area in the late 1800s. Today they are the Pioneers. Reading specialist Elaine Feuer-Barton was wearing her original Trailblazer tee shirt. Her son, Justin, then a fourth-grader, placed a pair of rollerblades in the capsule, she said.

Principal Cameron recalled that Pokemon cards and a sticker for the DARE anti-drug program were also in the time capsule, but what else fills the massive pipe is still a mystery.

While the sealed capsule is on display, students are making predictions about its contents, bringing the anticipation and excitement to a whole new level, said Cameron. They are also making suggestions as to what they will include to represent their era at the school, when the time capsule will be reburied for the next 20 years.

“Sometimes it’s difficult to dig into history,” commented Feuer-Barton about the process.

But all will be revealed at the next school assembly on Friday, Oct. 3, when the contents of the capsule will be made known.