KINGMAN - It's been nearly 80 years since Palo Christi Elementary opened its door and began educating Kingman's youth, and now it's time to celebrate.
Palo Christi is holding a birthday party Wednesday to commemorate the first day of classes in 1929.
The student council and Principal Steve Hite will conduct tours of the school from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Cake in the shape of the school will be served in the family room throughout the day.
Kingman Unified School District Governing Board members, Mayor John Salem and Vice Mayor Janet Watson are expected to attend the open house, Hite said.
Watson spent time on the faculty at Palo Christi, and she isn't the only prominent member of the community to share a connection to the elementary school.
KUSD Governing Board President Dr. Charles Lucero attended Palo Christi and contributed to the renovation of the family room, Hite said.
In anticipation of the anniversary, Palo Christi has reached out to its past students and staff to collect photographs and memorabilia for a scrapbook. And they have responded, Hite said.
"They think it's great," Hite said.
Across the gymnasium, 35 Palo Christi T-shirts from more than three decades are on display. The main hallway contains a painting of the original school, along with photographs.
The school has been planning the celebration for at least the last two years, Hite said. Part of the preparation has been restoring aspects of the school.
A dedication sign for the Sharon Hackley Nature Trail was reposted. Herb Lucero has maintained the trail of late, Hite said.
The district utilized bond money to improve the school while keeping its historical look. Part of the bond funds were used to replace the exterior doors.
"The people putting in the doors said every door was true," Hite said. "They said new buildings aren't built as good as this was."
According to the Mohave County Miner, the former name for the Kingman Daily Miner, the first day of classes were on Jan. 7, 1929. The school's opening was first slowed by construction delays and then a week due to a lack of operational heating units.
The school was built in 1928 on a design by Lescher and Mahoney in Phoenix, utilizing bond funds. The two-story semi-fireproof building featured 11 classrooms, one small office and one small teachers' room.
"Other superintendents said if this building stood in Las Vegas, this building would've been bulldozed down," Hite said. "I said not, because of the historical registry."
A Web site commemorating the school has been set up at www.kusd.org/pc. Alumni can click on "A Grand Old School" to leave comments and memories.
The online memorial was the brainchild of computer teacher Laura Neilon, Hite said.
While Hite has served as principal for the last five years, Audrey Hetrick has taught at Palo Christi for around 20 years, Hite said.
Hetrick and other faculty and staff are excited about the anniversary celebration, Hite said.
Even with the celebration, students will still have to go and participate in classes, Hite said. Maybe that is why Hite said he hasn't seen a lot of excitement from the students.
Still, the celebration has its place for the current students, Hite said.
"It's good for the kids to realize how long the building has been here and how many people have gone through here," he said. "There've been some very successful people."
For more information about the open house from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Palo Christi, contact the school at (928) 753-2472.