More than 70 sixth graders will graduate from Marshall Road Elementary School this summer — but this year, they've ingrained a part of themselves in the school that will last long after they walk out its doors for the last time.
As part of the community's year-long "50 for 50" initative that honors the school's anniversary, the sixth graders, along with every teachers and student in kindergarten through fifth grade, spent weeks hand crafting clay tiles and buttons for a sweeping mosaic honoring the milestone.
On Monday, they saw the work come to life in an official unveiling in the school's lobby.
Parents Rita Monner and Dena Carter first approached the school's PTA about the idea this summer, said President Beth Eachus, as the group was creating the list of 50 projects it planned to accomplish as a community in honor of the school's 50th anniversary.
Fitzgerald coached the sixth graders in two of their art classes, along with art teachers Ginny Kinsey and Ronald Woodard, as they created their tiles, she said. She then assembled them — along with the clay buttons designed by students in other grades — onto six large mosaic boards in her Church Street studio. She held two "open houses" so students could see their work being pieced together.
At the unveiling, the boards surrounded a center mosaic bearing the Marshall Road Elementary School name. Students pointed out the tiles scattered across the mosaic, remembering their own creations and marveling at those of teachers and friends.
Fitzgerald said one of her favorite parts of the project was "you find something new everytime you look at it."
"It captures such a special moment in time," Fitzgerald said.
While the mural held many of the pieces created by students and teachers, there are still buttons that won't fit on the piece of art. Faculty plan to create a second piece of art with the remaining creations, which will likely hang above or around the school's main office.
Principal Jennifer Heiges encouraged students to bring in their families and friends to see the completed project, throughout the rest of this school year and in the years that follow.
"The more people know about it, the more it comes to life," she said.
For photos from the event, click through the media gallery above.