Coral Gables

Coral Gables school celebrates 90th birthday

 

sabbassi@MiamiHerald.com

It’s not every day that the first and oldest public school in Coral Gables celebrates its 90th Anniversary.

Coral Gables Preparatory Academy, however, is doing just that. Built in three-phases starting in 1923 (then known as Coral Gables Grammar School), the school played a central role in Coral Gables founder George Merrick’s master plan for the city.

The school will celebrate it’s 90th by having a historical exhibition at the Coral Gables Museum, which will consist of memorabilia such as old photos, letters, yearbooks and an alumni wall that shows the progression of the school from 1923 to present-day.

“We wanted to do something that we could celebrate and share with the community,” said Cheli Cerra, principal of Gables Prep.

Gables Prep and the Coral Gables Museum have had collaborations in the past and both organizations agreed that having the exhibition in the museum would be ideal.

“We’ve done programs with the school in past and we thought it would be great to celebrate the school and help promote its mission to create an alumni association,” said Christine Rupp, Director of the Coral Gables Museum.

The alumni association Rupp mentioned is an effort to integrate the schools alumni base back into the school. One way that is being done is a “Where are they now?” section that will be present in the exhibit. Alumni will have the opportunity to be featured with before and current photos and a small biographical section.

“We wanted the alumni to feel like a part of the celebration,” said Cerra, “And our intent was for the students to see all the prominent graduates that sat in their seats.

The school is currently in the process of gathering all the memorabilia and different items for the exhibition.

The exhibit, which will be called I nspiring High Ideals: Celebrating Ninety Years of History at Coral Gables Elementary School, 1923-2013, will run from Oct. 25 to Dec. 1 and afterwards will be relocated to its permanent home in Gables Prep.

Gables Prep (formerly known as Coral Gables Elementary) expanded from being just an elementary school to a Preparatory Academy in 2010 that now accommodates Kindergarten through eighth grade under Cerra, who is only the sixth principal in the schools history.

The school has not only expanded but retained its “A” status, along with winning multiple awards including the Sterling Award, Golden Apple Award and a National Blue Ribbon recognition.

Lali Gonzalez, who has been teaching at Gables Prep for 34 years, has seen the school’s transition since the 60th anniversary and attributed its success and expansion to the familial elements present on campus.

“The combination of the students, the parents, the administration and the teachers makes me feel like we’ve become a family here,” said Gonzalez. “I can’t imagine another place like it.”

Barbara Harley ’79, graduate of the school and mother of three graduates, echoed what Gonzalez said.

“For me I see the generational value,” said Harley. “There’s loyalty and consistency with the teachers, even when they could go somewhere else they choose to stay and invest and make a legacy—even with the expansion.”

Janet Barbour, class of 1952, is impressed with the expansion of the school to a K-8, but also with continuity of the original campus and building.

“It’s wonderful that the building still has its integrity, they haven’t messed with the architecture—there’s something really special to that,” said Barbour.

The school was built in the Mediterranean revival style that Merrick specifically targeted and that is prevalent throughout the Gables in such structures as the Biltmore Hotel and the Venetian Pool.

In anticipation of the exhibit, alumni can donate $25 to be honored in the gallery in the “Where are they now?” wall.

If interested, submit two photos (one from your childhood years and one current) of yourself or a loved one, with a small blurb to cgehistory@gmail.com.

For more information on how you can get involved, contact Giselle Portuondo at 305.603.8067 or cgehistory@gmail.com.

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