Ocean Lakes Elementary School celebrates past, looks forward


OCEAN LAKES – It’s really difficult to find something when you can’t remember where you left it.

That was the case at Ocean Lakes Elementary School when administrators tried to find a time capsule buried somewhere on the school’s grounds 25 years ago.

Principal Linda  M. Reese said the search for the capsule started two and half years ago. “It was an ongoing project that would require professional help in the end,” Reese said.

Much of the landscaping had changed since the building opened a quarter of a century ago. The school had trouble even with metal detectors, so officials called in a specialist from the Naval Facilities Engineering Command in Norfolk.

That was after Carl Peake, computer resource specialist at the school, who was working on a slide presentation for the anniversary program showed Reese pictures of the original courtyard. That – and ground penetrating radar – unlocked the key to the capsule’s location.

“There was a grassy area covered in about one and a half inches of soil and plants,” said Reese. “Once that was removed, we saw the concrete slab underneath that hid the capsule.”

To retrieve the treasure was another challenge. It had been placed in the ground in a hole, and the gap around the capsule was filled with concrete. They couldn’t get it out of the ground because it weighed so much.

Jackhammers were brought in to free the capsule, but eventually the contents were removed by opening the top of the tube because they couldn’t recover the container.

Natalie McHendry, 11, who tried to find the capsule last year using a metal detector was disappointed when her efforts failed. She thought the capsule was down too deep. When it was discovered, she felt relieved to see it was enclosed in concrete.

“We thought we would be making history at the school if we found it,” said McHendry, a Corporate Landing sixth grader.

A celebration earlier this month focused on the people who made the school what it is today. Dee Perry started at Ocean Lakes the day the school opened its doors in 1989.

“I love the children – the joy of seeing the lights come on as they learn, the joy of watching them grow means everything,” she said. “I’d do another 25 years here, if I could.”

Cassandra Hawkins, too, has been at Ocean Lakes for 25 years. In the early days, there were over 1,100 students and 18 portable classrooms out back, she remembered. Now there are about 500 students.

“Now we have a better opportunity to know our students,” said the special education assistant. “That’s a big deal.”

This 25th anniversary also held special memories for Daniel Henderson and Sydney Simerson. Both attended the school back in the early 1990s.

“I wanted to come back and see everyone and see how much the school has grown, see the little kids,” said Henderson, now in the Navy. “It’s heartwarming.”

Simerson, who is now dating Henderson, said this was where they first crossed paths.

“This is where everything started – my learning, my education,” said Simerson. “You don’t forget that.”

Ocean Lakes Elementary is taking another snapshot of its present to share with the future. Current students from all grade levels will bring in items.

The old will be reburied, joined by the new, for the next 25 years.

This time the hiding place will be more accessible.

The school will encase the new capsule in one of the building’s walls.

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