Community School celebrates 75 years

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PROSPECT — Community School Principal Joseph Nuzzo reached forearm-deep into a blue plastic cylinder to discover what previous staff and students left behind in a time capsule 25 years ago.

Nuzzo pulled out a collection of memorabilia, everything from photos of early graduating classes to letters penned from former students to current students.

The principal, along with Victor Visockis, 85, who engraved and put together the time capsule in 1986, opened the tube before an audience of more than 200 people last Wednesday to celebrate Community School’s 75th anniversary.

They stood in the school’s gymnasium, where former administrators, staff and students watched. All current staff and students wore white T-shirts with navy blue letters that read: “Community School 1936-2011 Celebrating 75 years.”

Speakers shared memories and history of the school on Center Street, which houses 208 fourth-and fifth-graders. Each class performed a skit for each of the past eight decades, highlighting current events, movies and songs of the time. Take the ’60s, for example. A class sang and danced to Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog.”

The place grew quiet for the opening of the time capsule, which had been kept downstairs in the book room. It had been sealed for the school’s 50th anniversary.

“Hopefully, we don’t find any former students in here,” Nuzzo joked, just before Visockis removed the thick yellow tape holding the capsule together.

Nuzzo unearthed a special heart decoration with a lollipop, two large pieces of paper depicting Cabbage Patch Kids, photos of students square dancing, a 1986 Time magazine edition that featured the Statue of Liberty, and an edition of The Waterbury American newspaper from that year.

The collection of mementos continued.

Nuzzo told a bit of the school’s history for current students. In 1936, he said, the building only had four classrooms and 98 students.

The school has come a long way, Nuzzo said, but the dedication of the teaching staff and the high curriculum standards haven’t changed.

Superintendent of Schools James Agostine asked audience members to raise their hands if they were students in the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and so on. Many hands lifted.

Visockis, who graduated from the school in the ’40s, said when he entered the school, it was probably the first time he experienced indoor plumbing.

“To me, it was like a palace,” Visockis said.

Helen Plante, 41, watched the program from the back of the auditorium, where displays of old school photos and other memorabilia rested.

She found her mother in the display photos. Her mother, Helen Russell, was a graduate of the 1950 class. Plante’s daughter, Jillian, 10, a fifth-grader, attends the school now.

“It’s fun,” Plante said. “It’s nice to see that they are showing the history of the school.”