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12:05 AM Sat, Nov. 17th

Celebration marks 99 years at Miller Valley school

Peter Dorsey, who teaches the English language learners classes at Miller Valley Elementary School, cuts and serves pieces from a 99-foot-long cake at the school's 99th anniversary celebration Friday night, May 1. (Les Bowen/The Daily Courier)

Peter Dorsey, who teaches the English language learners classes at Miller Valley Elementary School, cuts and serves pieces from a 99-foot-long cake at the school's 99th anniversary celebration Friday night, May 1. (Les Bowen/The Daily Courier)

PRESCOTT - Just one year short, Miller Valley Elementary School will close before it reaches its 100th anniversary.

But students, staff and community members celebrated anyway Friday night, May 1, in an evening of entertainment, food and meeting up with old friends and classmates.

The playground outside the school looked like a school carnival with field games and bounce houses.

Sonia Clarke, a volunteer at Miller Valley, ran the hula-hoop game.

She said she's sad to see the school close in three weeks.

"It's a little piece of history," Clarke said.

She added that she will continue to volunteer at school, but next year, she'll be at Abia Judd Elementary.

Inside the school event-goers enjoyed live music and snacked on popcorn, pizza, cotton candy and a 99-foot-long cake that spanned three sides of the school cafeteria.

Many in the crowd purchased bright yellow T-shirts that read "Forever, loving to learn and learning to love," a modification of the school's motto.

While a lot of the attendees were current students and their parents, the event also attracted former students and teachers.

Jeanette Dickinson's last name was Fosnaugh when she attended the school from 1972 to '76.

"I have lots of memories here," she said. "We used to do calisthenics out by the flagpole."

Dickinson said the school has changed a lot since she attended, with the addition of new buildings and renovations.

She said she is part of several groups on social media sites like Facebook and hoped to meet up with former classmates.

Dickinson now lives in Prescott Valley and three of her grandchildren attended Miller Valley.

The oldest buildings at Miller Valley School opened in 1916 and replaced the one-room West Prescott School that opened in 1878 and was renamed to recognize homesteaders Sam and Jacob Miller, according to the school's history complied at Sharlot Hall Museum.

The original 1916 building is the school's main facade, visible at the corner of Iron Springs and Miller Valley roads. Within two years of opening, the school expanded into two additional classrooms, and four teachers taught students up to eighth grade. In 1927, two more classrooms opened.

In 1930, Miller Valley Elementary became part of Prescott Unified School District, losing two grades to the junior high school. By the end of the 1930s, nearly 300 students attended the school with 10 classrooms from kindergarten through sixth grade.

Additional buildings opened in the 1950s, '60s and '70s as the school's population ballooned to more than 500 students, and for several weeks in 1963 taught double sessions until construction completed at Taylor Hicks Elementary.

Further additions came in 1992 and the most recent in 2007.

The last day of school at Miller Valley is May 21 and teachers check out May 22, though several teachers will move to other schools within the district. Most students at Miller Valley will be reassigned to attend Taylor Hicks or Abia Judd elementary schools, though some will fall within the boundary for Lincoln Elementary School.

Prescott Unified School District administration has not publicly stated plans for the school's future, though its proximity to Yavapai Regional Medical Center's west campus, a planned rehabilitation center west of the school and its location with one of Prescott's commercial districts opens an array of possibilities.

The district's governing board voted in April to put a question on the November general election ballot asking voters to allow the district to sell both Miller Valley and Washington schools. If approved, the two schools would join Dexter School and the district offices on the list of properties for sale.

Follow reporter Les Bowen on Twitter @NewsyLesBowen