The past and present converged at the Paint Branch High School’s All Class Reunion on Saturday, as alumni from five decades gathered to say farewell to a building that has served the area for 43 years.
The Burtonsville high school is set to be demolished late this summer to make room for its neighbor, a brand new $94 million Paint Branch High School.
“Some people are calling it the Taj Mahal,” said Paint Branch High School Principal Jeanette Dixon.
Hugs and nostalgia abounded as old and young met to take one last walk down the florescent-lit halls.
The school arranged tours for the thousands of people who RSVPed to the event. Within a few days of the announcement, the event’s Facebook had more than 5,000 attending members, said Nasreem Glover, the event coordinator of the All Class Reunion Committee.
“We’ve handed out over 16,000 diplomas,” Dixon said of the school, which graduated its first class in 1969.
Outside, raffle tickets for a crab feast were sold and alumni grilled burgers under a tent. Camera flashes and video recordings were commonplace as families, sometimes two generations of alumni, made their way through the building.
The gymnasium still had badminton birdies stuck in the rafters and wall guards from years past. The gym floorboards still held their shine despite thousands of sneakered feet scuffing them since Richard M. Nixon was president.
Some attendees shared their memories of the building. “I met my husband here,” said Jody Lethbridge, who graduated in 1999.
“My favorite hall is the one with the big mural. It smelled like a pool and it still does,” said Sehai Haregot of the class of 2005.
“It was four years of fun,” Fred Small said of his tenure from 1972 to 1976.
Even the current students will miss the old building’s embrace. Karissa Scaffifi, a rising senior who enjoyed walking around the building to visit friends during lunch, said the new building looks big.
“It’s pretty sad we are seniors and will act like freshmen,” she said of navigating the new high school.
The staff is scheduled to move to the new building on June 17 and begin preparations to host its first school year on August 27.