Former Roosevelt school building celebrates 100 years

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published October 13, 2021

 The old Roosevelt school building, currently home to Ferndale Lower Elementary School at 2610 Pinecrest Drive, will host a celebration for its 100th birthday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22.

The old Roosevelt school building, currently home to Ferndale Lower Elementary School at 2610 Pinecrest Drive, will host a celebration for its 100th birthday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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FERNDALE — Ferndale Public Schools has gone through many changes over the years, but one thing that has remained consistent has been the former Roosevelt school.

The Roosevelt building, located at 2610 Pinecrest Drive, was christened the Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School in 1921, two years after the death of the former president it was named after. It later would become the Roosevelt Primary School before being renamed as Ferndale Lower Elementary School.

Originally, the school served students from kindergarten through eighth grade. As the district grew bigger over the years, the number of grades it housed from kindergarten onward was lowered to fifth grade, then third grade, and now finally at second grade.

Now, 100 years after the school building first opened, the district is inviting the community to a centennial celebration from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22.

People who attend will get a chance to walk through the school, reminisce about its changes, and view pictures and articles from its 100-year history.

Principal Diana Keefe noted the long history of Roosevelt, and said the school has a “feeling” to it that people recognize — one of love, support and kindness.

“I’ve enjoyed my time here for sure,” she said. “I think it’s really been a focal point for the community. I think that people are tied here, drawn here … there’s definitely a community tie to it. Families come and go, but it’s really about that community feel to me.”

Tracey Yacks, a literacy coach in Ferndale Public Schools who has worked in the district for 23 years, has spent a good portion of her time at Roosevelt and currently has been working on its 100th anniversary committee to plan the Oct. 22 celebration.

Yacks said Roosevelt has been a pillar in the district for so long and has gone through many changes, not just physically to the building, but also its purpose and how it’s served the community.

“The fact that it’s had like three name changes, that it’s gone from being a K-8 school now down to a K-2 school, it just kind of reflects all of the changes that have happened in our district,” she said. “That was kind of interesting to me, walking through the building and then looking at the architecture.”

Roosevelt’s 100th year is noteworthy in itself, as not many buildings exist for this long before they’re torn down for something new.

Yacks said the reason the building is still here is a testament to the community and the love it has for Roosevelt, because in the 23 years she’s been in Ferndale, she’s gone through three restructurings and has heard the dialogue of which buildings should stay and which should go.

“There’s never been a question that Roosevelt would stay because of the ties to the community,” she said. “It’s a testament to the community that they fought for that building to always stay.

“There’s a uniqueness to the building,” she continued. “There’s a beauty to the building. As a staff member, we often complain about cramped spaces … but yet you walk in and you see all that natural woodwork, you see the original oak and you see the tile and the fireplace in the media center, and there’s a nostalgic kind of piece to it.”

As it stands now, Ferndale Lower Elementary will stay in Roosevelt for one more year, making it to 101 years, before moving to a newly constructed school building near Oak Park Boulevard and Rosewood Street. Roosevelt will not be torn down though, but instead will receive updates and be used for the Center for Advanced Studies and the Arts, or CASA, students.

“We’re getting ready to go to a new building, but I think it’s really important that we’re still going to be Roosevelt even though we have a new name and a new place,” said Keefe. “We want to continue those traditions of community and that education excellence that we pride ourselves on.”

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