Whitcomb Elementary celebrates 50th
The first memories of school can last a lifetime.
The school colors, a giant mascot in the entrance of the campus — these things make an impression on young students.
Built in 1965, Whitcomb Elementary School, 900 Reseda Drive, Houston, is marking its 50th anniversary, and for alumni, it’s the people and the traditions they remember most.
For Melissa Sherpa, who started first grade at Whitcomb Elementary School in 1971 three years after it opened, it was a custodian named Jesse who left one of the biggest impressions. Jesse, she said, took care of the school while also being a role model to students by his dedication to his work.
“He was a wonderful man and made it a point to build relationships with all of us,” said Sherpa, who didn’t know Jesse’s last name. “He loved all the students and we loved him.
“We respected him and in turn we respected the school. We wanted to take care of it because we knew how hard he worked.”
Sherpa’s parents were active members of the PTA and helped build some of the traditions the school still honors.
Sherpa began teaching at Whitcomb in 2003 and is now part of those same traditions.
“I feel so many connections to the school,” she said. “Whitcomb is very much a community school with a family like atmosphere.”
“I really believe in my heart that the first years of a child’s educational path are the most important of all,” Sherpa said. “In elementary school, we build the foundation for a lifelong learner.”
The school celebrated the anniversary on Dec. 1 with a performance from the Whitcomb fourth-grade choir and the introduction of teachers who were at the campus when it opened in 1968.
When voters approved a Clear Creek ISD’s $487 million bond in 2017, it included plans for a major renovation of Whitcomb, which is one of seven schools in the district that are at least 50 years old. Set to start in November 2021 and end a year later, this project will renovates the entire campus and brings it up to current learning and safety standards.
Chris Cummings has a current attachment to Whitcomb through his two children, who are in kindergarten and first grade, but also through his own memories.
Cummings and his twin brother started first grade in 1974. He singles out two teachers who went out of two favorite teachers, Mrs. Newman and Mr. Clark, who went out of their way to work one-on-one with students. Cummings didn’t know the teachers’ first names.
But a few of his favorite memories have nothing to do with academics. He has fond memories of the school’s track-and-field events has vivid recollections of Whitcomb students gathering outside for flag ceremonies.
“I don’t know if it was an everyday thing, but it seemed like it,” he said.
Giant ‘Whitney’ evokes memories
And Cummings will never forget “Whitney,” the seemingly giant giraffe mascot he passed by every day in the school’s atrium area. He and his brother were part of the class that helped build Whitney.
Cummings said that if his children experience at the school is as positive as his was, they have a good start.
“I think it’s vital,” he said. “You’re establishing the foundation for their education, behavior and emotions to some extent.”
Over the last 50 years, Whitney, constructed on a wire frame, has had a few makeovers, with several layers of materials like papier mâché added for stability and upgrade.
“It’s almost symbolic, the different layers over the years and all the kids that have gone through there,” Cummings said. “When you walk in, there’s that giraffe in the atrium area. So, going in every time there is definitely a sense of nostalgia.”