At 40, Modesto school is just a baby compared to another with milestone this year

Watch students form “40” to mark Modesto school’s anniversary

Students and staff at Christine Sipherd Elementary on East Orangeburg in Modesto celebrated the school's 40th anniversary Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018.
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Students and staff at Christine Sipherd Elementary on East Orangeburg in Modesto celebrated the school's 40th anniversary Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018.

Sure, it’s had some work done, but Christine Sipherd Elementary School is looking fine at 40.

Of course, children keep you young, and Sipherd currently has close to 500 of them. And attendance was high Wednesday as the students and staff filed onto a field to form a giant “40.”

“Only a few kids are out sick, and they’re fighting to come to school,” principal Tiffany Davenport said, smiling. “Nobody wants to miss a birthday party.”

Sipherd Elementary opened on Sept. 5, 1978, named in honor of a longtime food-services employee at Empire Elementary School, Davenport said. “She was a person who dedicated her life to the kids. The schools always want to make sure the kids are fed and taken care of, and she was that person for a lot of kids.”

The school at 3420 E. Orangeburg Ave. in Modesto had a full day of celebration planned Wednesday, with guests including Empire Union School District board members, two grandsons of Sipherd’s, and the school’s first principal, Gary McDaniel.

Each grade level had something prepared for the birthday party, including a recitation of the original Sipherd School poem, skits and the singing of “Happy Birthday.”

Sipherd isn’t the only area school celebrating a milestone this year. “We’re babies,” Davenport said, compared to Paradise Elementary School on California Avenue northwest of Paradise and South Carpenter roads.

The school marks its 150th anniversary this academic year, said principal and Paradise Elementary School District Superintendent Heath Thomason. He said he believes Paradise is the oldest school in Stanislaus County, and he’s likely right. The county Office of Education has been unable to confirm or disprove that.

Some of the earliest schools apparently didn’t have names, office spokeswoman Cynthia Fenech said, and records haven’t been found to indicate they became schools that still exist. Thomason thought Modesto High and Shiloh Elementary might be close, but the former opened in 1883 and the latter in 1880.

Paradise isn’t “going crazy with it” for the 150th, Thomason said. Like Sipherd, school students and staff plan to form their anniversary year on a school field, and an anniversary dinner is planned for Sept. 29.

The school’s parent club is putting on the event, Thomason said, and is trying to get word out to alumni. It’s also looking to borrow memorabilia to display that evening.

Memorabilia already secured reflect some of the five or six times the school has changed its color combination over the decades, Thomason said. The mascot always has remained the Roadrunner.

There also will be photos displayed of when the current “new” school was built in 1971. The campus does include some of the original school, Thomason said: a former classroom wing out back that’s no longer up to code and now is used for storage.

The 150th anniversary celebration includes a chicken and tri-tip dinner and an auction, Thomason said. Tickets are $35. For more information or to loan memorabilia, call the school at 209-524-0184.