Celebration marks 20th anniversary of reopening

Twenty years ago, the student body of Westwood Elementary School gathered outside to kick off a new year of school, with a theme of ‘Up, up and away.’

In celebration of 20 years since the school’s reopening as a full grade school, on Aug. 23, the staff once again chose ‘Up, up and away’ as the theme for the 2017-18 school year.

Taking the theme one step further, they added “the power of yet.”

Principal Ryan Hart explained to the students gathered that they might say, “I can’t do that,” or “I don’t know that,” but they need to get used to adding the word yet to their statements, saying “I can’t do that, yet”

Hart told students “You can demonstrate taking yourself to new heights and demonstrate a constant ability to learn new things.”

Many of the staff sported 20-year T-shirts, listing each of the school year themes from the past 20 years. The staff uses the theme to encourage students throughout the school year and as a basis for awards.

To further demonstrate the theme, the students were treated to the appearance of the RE/MAX hot air balloon team from Cary. Pilot Bennett Schwontkowski said, “You’re about to see a seven-story balloon inflate. It came here in a van. Is it meant to do that? It’s risky, but that’s exactly what school is for.”

The balloon team then inflated the balloon to the oohs, aahs and applause of the students. Once the balloon was fully inflated, they took Principal Hart up about 50 feet in the tethered balloon.

Several staff members were present 20 years ago for the first re-opening of the school. Tammy Ortmann, a special education teacher, said, “Westwood is still the greatest place to be. The energy is strong, and students still come back to visit.”

“It has kind of come full circle,” said second-grade teacher Wendy Wicker. “It’s really amazing to get this moment back.”

The RE/MAX balloon team has been doing presentations for schools since 1974. Pilot Schwontkowski said his mother was a schoolteacher and these presentations are his way to honor her memory.

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