VINELAND — Staff, teachers and students have been working for months in preparation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Vineland High School South.

Plans involve reunions of former students and athletes, a rededication of the building and even a citywide Red and Gray Day in honor of the school colors.

Preparation work has involved sifting through boxes of materials looking for memorabilia, yearbooks and other pieces of history linked to the school that opened in 1963. Committees have been working for months putting together the celebration.

Vineland High School South Principal Thomas McCann said that historical record is very important not only for the school, but also for the city.

“One of the things we’ve got to always do in education is to celebrate our victories,” McCann said. “We’ve had a lot of very successful people walk the halls of this school and go on to become leaders in the community. We want to really celebrate that, and the fact that this building is 50 years old and going strong.”

The Vineland High School campus on Chestnut Avenue contains Vineland High School South, which houses juniors and seniors, and Vineland High School North, which houses freshmen and sophomores.

Vineland High School South is the older of the two buildings. School district officials estimate that at least 25,000 students who attended classes in that building were graduated from Vineland High School.

Brand new in 1963, the school’s first principal — Mary Rossi — was foresighted enough to immediately start collecting materials that would serve as a historical record of its life, district officials said.

History teacher Dan Kuzma, a 1998 Vineland High School graduate who is supervising the student anniversary committee, said that the research is bringing back memories of what were once routine special events, such as when students would play basketball in the gymnasium while riding on donkeys. The school’s insurance company would likely never allow that event to occur today because of liability concerns, he said.

Students at the school are enthusiastic about the celebration, he said.

Senior Gabriela Brown and junior Patrick Bryant both said one aspect of the anniversary project that they did not think of when they started is how they would be remembered for their part in the endeavor.

“It’s pretty amazing that, 50 years from now, people will be looking back on who we are,” Brown said.

“We will be left in this high school,” Bryant added.

While the research is primarily about Vineland High School South, some of the materials that students are finding old boxes in the school libraries involves parts of Vineland High School history that predates1963. Among the things found by students are pictures of school life in past decades, including a time when boys went to classes in suits and ties.

“I just can’t see that happening today,” said Bryant.

Kuzma said working on the anniversary celebration has spurred him to consider another project — finding a way to preserve the city’s few remaining former one-room school houses. He said he wants to look for grants to help in the preservation work.

Should that happen, he already has one volunteer.

“I want to come back and see if I can help,” Brown said. “I think it would be interesting.”

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