During the time of public sharing for Cunningham’s formal goodbye service held on May 10, numerous former students and staff shared their own larger than life memories.  For Corey Frazier, currently a middle school student, it was Ms. Peck, who kept an old bathtub in her room as a special reading spot.  For Jayne Clowater, who taught at the school in the 1980s, it was the time her class measured out the size of the Titanic on the athletic fields.  For Connie Glass Haislip, a first grader at Cunningham in 1955, it was the five-cent milk cartons and 30-cent lunches that were brought into her classroom on plastic trays.

For over 60 years, Cunningham District School has given kids and staff alike memorable moments, but not for much longer.

“It will be very sad to see this school close,” said Karen Johnson Chambers,

one of the first African American students to integrate the school in 1968.  “I had a good childhood here.”

Sharon Lambert Rittenhouse told the story of her aunt Alice Davis, one of the first cooks at Cunningham, when the school opened in 1949 as a consolidation of Woodside and Antioch Elementary Schools.

“They were so proud because they had gotten electricity in the kitchen,” said Lambert Rittenhouse.

Emogene Johnson, who started teaching in Fluvanna in 1950 and later became the principal of Cunningham, didn’t let her current health problems get in the way of attending the ceremony and telling of Cunningham’s history as a community school that has served generations of families.

“I’m all for a community school.  You find things here that you don’t find anywhere else,” said Johnson.  “Parents know the teachers and support the teachers.”

The teachers of Cunningham seemed to have touched students in an unforgettable way.  Nick Ward, who is now a special education teacher at Fluvanna County High School, told of his high school graduation day in 1999, when he – and every other student in his second grade class – received a card from his Cunningham teacher, with work that had completed in second grade.

Julie Haislip, a current teacher at Cunningham, is the middle of three generations to attend the school.

“My whole life I wanted to be a teacher, and I always wanted to teach at Cunningham,” said Haislip.  “We’re still Cunningham.  No matter where we go, we take it in our hearts.”

Haislip designed t-shirts that students wore saying, “Once a Cub, Always a Cub.  Cunningham School 1949-2013.”

The students wearing the t-shirts seemed as bereft as first and second graders could be.

“This is my favorite school,” said current student Jonathan Farmer.  “I have a good time here.  I love to learn and to read, of course.”

Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors member Mozell Booker was principal of Cunningham for many years.  She gave words to the common thread of the evening.

“The building maybe closed, but we’re still here,” said Booker.  “We can pass these stories on.”

PHOTO BY Maria Gallardo-Gonzalez.

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