LEOMINSTER – Students and staff at Frances Drake Elementary School recently wrote notes and gathered memorabilia and other school-related items and buried them in a time capsule in the school courtyard that hopefully will be opened in 2046, 25 years from now.
Longtime Principal Andres Vera said the inspiration for the time capsule came from a 1978 school yearbook they came across two years ago that mentions a time capsule that was buried when Frances Drake first opened, the 1972-73 school year, that is due to be opened in 2023, 50 years later.
“One of the pages spoke of a time capsule that was buried in the courtyard,” he said, adding that the yearbook is the oldest they have and it’s the only copy. “Given the year we have had, we thought it is the right time to do our own time capsule.”
Despite a determined effort to find the original capsule using heavy equipment and the services of metal detector enthusiasts from Appleseed Valley Relic Seekers, it wasn’t found.
“They came by and spent hours going over spots, but the metal detectors only go so deep,” Vera said.
They even invited in a former student who was in second grade at the time the initial time capsule was buried to come in and help them look for it — still no luck.
“(The student) knew this happened but could not place it,” Vera said of the student. “We contacted teachers and administration from that time, and they all remember something about it, but none could pinpoint the exact location.”
The fifth-grade students dug the approximately 4-feet-deep hole for the new time capsule, their annual community project for the school that the fifth grade traditionally does towards the end of each school year.
“They were so excited to dig it,” Vera said.
Every one of the 510 kindergarten through fifth-grade students and around 100 teachers and school staff members were given an index card to write a message for the time capsule, and each grade and special education team took a picture to place in it as well.
Assistant Principal Wendy Hess decided to put the book she picked out to read to the students at the end of the school year, an annual tradition, inside the time capsule instead of donating it to the school library — “Be You” by Peter Reynolds.
Each grade and their teachers filed out into the courtyard on Monday. Once Hess got the young students’ attention with a “microwave,” a finger wave, Vera spoke to the excited group and told them that in 25 years he and Hess would be 75- and 79-years-old, respectively.
“If we are in the area still you will have to come get us and we will come in with our walkers,” Vera joked, and then said that in 25 years some of the current students may have children of their own or be married, which drew an audible “eww!” from a young girl.
“When you are 30 and if you are in Leominster, you can come and talk to the principal, whoever it is at that time, and say it’s time to get that time capsule out,” Vera said. “The kindergarten students then won’t even be born for another 20 years.”
Each team dropped sealable bags with the messages and other items sealed in them down the hole into a 5-gallon orange bucket that is serving as the time capsule.
“Be careful, I don’t want you to fall in,” Vera said to the kindergartners as they walked by the time capsule location. “The hole is bigger than you are.”
Vera said each grade has a remote teacher this year. Those teachers brought out laptops with a live feed to the students at home so those students could also see the time capsule and be a part of the process.
“They all wrote a note, too and sent it in,” Vera said of the remote students.
Vera said they are putting an envelope in his office that will have laminated instructions as to where the time capsule is located and when it should be opened.
They are placing square sheets of metal in between layers in the time capsule so that metal detectors will be able to locate the capsule in case the coordinates do not work, and next year’s yearbook will include a note about the 2021 time capsule.
“This time capsule is to be dug out 25 years from now, and we will create very clear directions and coordinates as to where the time capsule will be buried so 25 years from now so it can be found,” Vera said. “We will include pictures wearing our masks as well as at least one newspaper with headlines about the pandemic.”
Vera said it was important to them to include pandemic related items as well as photos with and without masks on.
“We were talking to them about the significance of what we are doing, especially with COVID,” he said. “History in the making, and you are leaving your mark.”