In 1963, the cost of gas was 29 cents per gallon, Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom” was airing on television and a moppy-headed group of young men named John, Paul, George and Ringo made a trip “across the pond” to play a bit of music in the United States.
But something else happened much closer to home.
La Vista West Elementary School has been open since 1963 and is the second oldest elementary school in the Papillion-La Vista School District. Thursday, the school celebrated its 50th birthday with staff, students, families and community members and leaders.
“It truly has been a great celebration of our community,” Principal Lisa Wood told the Times.
She said the school has focused on what is most important throughout the year: family and students, as well as growth and learning for everyone. This focus helped shape the celebration as it brought the community together to mark the school’s half century.
“We look back at our history, and see how we’ve grown in the past and use that as motivation as we continue to grow and learn in our next 50 years,” she said.
She said she appreciates the continued support from the community, the City of La Vista and the school district, as well as the families and students.
In her ninth year as principal, Wood said she’s seen a lot of growth and success in the students and each and every day has been a privilege to work.
“I’m proud of the growth we’ve shown,” Wood said. “We definitely have been very focused as a staff on looking at the individual needs of our children, and ensuring we are doing everything we can, as a building, to meet those individual needs.”
Thursday afternoon’s celebration included presentations from students, including music by the second-graders, a student council presentation and a performance by the sixth-grade band.
Superintendent Andy Rikli also spoke to the assembly.
“I would like to thank all of our staff, community members and family,” he said to the audience, “but most of all, our 340 students.”
Rikli said 50 years was an important mark and, as he is a former history teacher, he did some research on the significance of 1963. He said the average new car cost $2,300, while the average house was only $12,500. The television show “Lassie” was a popular series, and President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
“It was an important year,” he said, “our birthday year.”
And while prices have risen, entertainment has evolved and security and technology have rapidly grown, some things never change.
“The sense of community here, the sense of teamwork, that’s just as true today as it was 50 years ago,” Rikli said.
Wood said she feels this sense of community will continue into the future.
“I think as we move into the next 50 years, we need to recognize certain things will continually be important,” she said.
This sense of community and relationships, as well as continued character development and academic growth in students, will be as much a part of the school as it has been in the past, Wood said.
Facing the future, she said the school will be looking into new technologies as it continues to prepare children to be ready for future college and career opportunities.
“We’ll continue to be researching to find what will it take to be successful in the future,” Wood said. “And we’ll continue to incorporate what it takes to make that happen.”