A 77-year-old symbol of early school days and monument to its many graduates got a fresh coat of white paint from caring hands in the community last Friday.
Thirty-five local volunteers from the Grant Thornton accountancy firm, along with eight members of staff evacuated from the British Virgin Islands, scrubbed and washed outside walls, sanded off old paint, and gave the old Savannah School House a bright new look.
After reaching out to the Cayman National Trust with an offer to assist with some of their projects, Grant Thornton learned the Savannah School had not been painted for a very long time. The company closed on Friday and staff headed to Savannah for the makeover.
For volunteers Dara Keogh, Grant Thornton Cayman partner, and Alison Linley, Grant Thornton senior manager, the schoolhouse’s charm provided a pleasant trip down memory lane.
Mr. Keogh said it was his first time visiting the old school. “It is something interesting to see – blackboards and chalkboards and oil lamps. Now we have Smart Boards … teachers using computers and kids using laptops in the place of slate and chalk,” he said.
Sitting at one of the wooden desks, Mr. Keogh imagined what it would have been like for a student. Lifting the old wooden-top desk where students kept books and touching the ink well on top of the desk, he said, “To see it the way it was is just amazing … without air conditioning and oil lamps, it must have been an experience for students receiving an education here 40 years ago.”
Mr. Keogh learned that the classrooms those days had many windows to let in cool sea breezes. Most children went barefoot, and to avoid the hot road surface, children made their way home by way of the beach.
The teacher was required to teach all subjects. A blackboard separated the individual classroom from Grade 1-6, There were not many books, and in place of physical education, children took nature walks behind the school in search of local fruits, played skip rope, knuckled marbles and played jacks.
“It’s amazing to see how far Cayman has come in such a short period of time,” he said. “I think it would be good for our kids to experience some yesteryear living in the old schoolhouse, the windows open, no air conditioning, some chalk, and let them experience what it was like back in the day.”
Designated as a National Historic Landmark, the old Savannah School, which is in front of the modern-day Savannah Primary School, was built in the 1940s by William Wallace Bodden, assisted by Tan and Crosby Eden, Leighton and Andrew Bush, Leonce Jackson, Stancial Jackson, Augustine DaCosta and Jeffie Watler.